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annoyed that this feeling is not shared by her sister, who seems to have divined already that they have a more than ordinary Teacher in their house; that a greater than Solomon is here; and that the best way to honour Him was to hear His word. Scholars in the East used to sit at the feet of their teachers, as St. Paul, we are told, sat at the feet of Gamaliel.' So Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, with a view to putting into practice what there she learned. Martha put things in their wrong place; the body first, the soul afterwards; the common mistake. She expresses surprise at her sister's conduct, when she ought rather to have been surprised at her own. She prides herself on what the Lord lightly esteemed, and requires Him to reprove her sister, unaware that she herself was the one to be reproved. This is another common mistake. Yet see how gently He reproves her. Twice in those tender tones He calls her by name, “Martha, Martha;" yet like a good Physician, with a firm touch as well as tender, going to the root of the evil. She, it would seem, was in another room, absenting herself from His teaching; thinking more of feeding, than of being fed by, Him;^ labouring more for the meat that perisheth, than of that which endureth unto everlasting life. The “many things” about which Martha was “careful and troubled
“ ” were things of this life, which, however proper in their place, yet relate only to this life, and must“ perish with the using.” Many things are pleasant, many profitable, but one thing is needful.” Some interpret this to mean,“One dish is enough ;” as though the Lord would have her to understand that where there was sufficiency, He did not care for superfluity; that there was something more important than eating and drinking Out of the banquet of life Mary had chosen the good portion, an abiding portion, of which she could never be deprived.?
1 Acts xxii, 3.
• Abp. Parker's Letters, p. 442.
6 St. Matt. iv. 4; St. Luke xii. 15, 19; Rom. xiv. 17.
1 Tim. iv. 8.
HE TEACHETH TO PRAY.
St. Luke xi. 1-4.
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to as.
And lead us not into temptation ; but deliver us from evil.
This may have been some place to which our Lord was in the habit of retiring for private prayer, as in the Garden of Gethsemane,' or one of the caves on some mountain-side.? Such oratories, or places for secret prayer, the devout among the Jews were in the habit of finding for themselves. “Prayer is the Christian's vital breath."3 He cannot live without prayer. He will ever find or make for himself some closet into the which he can enter and pray to his Father which seeth in secret. Isaac, in this also type of the Only.
. begotten, went out into the field to meditate or pray at the eventide. St. Luke seems to take particular notice of this duty of prayer. Possibly our Lord was praying with His Disciples, setting us a pattern of Family-prayer or Householdworship; or the Disciples, it might be, came upon Him as He was at His private devotions. In any case they would not disturb Him, but waited till He had ceased. Who would venture to interrupt another when speaking to his Sovereign? Then one of them preferred this request. The Jewish Rabbis or Teachers were in the habit of giving short forms of prayer to their pupils or disciples, by which they
i St. Matt. xxvi. 36; St. John xviii. 2.
2 St. Luke vi, 12; ix. 28.
• Jaines Montgomery.
4 Ch. iii. 21 ; v. 16; vi. 12; ix. 18, 28, 29; xxiii. 34, 46.
were distinguished. John the Baptist had given such a form to his disciples. The Lord reminds them that He has already given them such a form. That prayer, which in His Sermon on the Mount He had given them as a pattern by which to frame prayers of their own, He here repeats, with some slight variations, as a form, whose very words they might profitably use. There He had said, “After this manner pray ye.” Here He says,
Here He says, “When ye pray say.” The prayer which He had before given to all the people, He now puts into the mouth of His ministers. The Clergy need the same blessings as the lay-people. The same Prayer was given on two several occasions. So the Ten Commandments were twice delivered to Moses. A repetition of the same words need not be a "vain repetition.”! The Jews were in the habit of using Forms of prayer in Public worship, in their Synagogues and in the Temple. These the Lord sanctioned by His presence, taking part in them. We need not fear following such precedents.?
IMPORTUNITY IN PRAYER.
St. Luke xi. 5-10.
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, und say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves ; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not : the door is now shut, and
children are with me in bed ; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say i St. Matt. xxvi. 44.
inconsistency shrink from altogether ? Most of the sects which, abandon- omitting the Lord's Prayer. It is ing the use of forms, have adopted strange they do not see that its use extemporaneous utterances in their concedes the whole question. public worship, yct with a happy
unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth ; and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
The Lord not only teaches us to pray, but He teaches us that we must be importunate in prayer. Even with men importunity prevails at last; much more with God, who is willing to be intreated;? who only delays to try our faith, and to give us a greater blessing in the end. This result of importunity He illustrates by a Parable, homely and familiar, but very forcible. This domestic scene He sets before our eyes. In the sultry climate of the East men commonly travel by night for the sake of coolness, and many of His hearers doubtless had known what it was thus to receive a midnight guest. The emptiness of the larder marks the embarrassment of the host. He asks the loan of three loaves; one for his friend, one for himself, one for the sake of appearances. We almost seem to hear the neighbour answering from within. The door is barred, so that the other cannot come in and help himself, as he otherwise might, without disturbing his friend more than need be. The children are gone to bed, and must not be disturbed. In the East the custom was for the family to sleep in different parts of one large room, which is all that the phrase imports. Or the word may be rendered servants, who, no less than the master, have retired for the night. The house was in fact shut up. This “ can not” of course means “will not,” as is proved by what follows." He who will not take No for an answer, obtains more than he asked at the first. That which is denied to friendship, is yielded to importunity. The Lord draws the moral of His own Parable in a saying He has uttered before. Each direction has there Compare
with this Parable of The 5 So in the original. Friend at Midnight, the Parable of It does not necessarily mean the The Unjust Judge. St. Luke xviii. same bed. My children (or servants) 1-8. The argument is the same in as well as I myself, are in bed. We both.
are all gone to bed. 2 St. Matt. xv. 21-28.
? There are two words in v. 8 each 3 St. John ii. 3.
rendered rise. The latter means rather roused.
its counterpart. It is “Pray, pray, pray, in an ascending scale of earnestness.”! God is waiting to be gracious.
THE POWER OF PRAYER.
St. Luke xi. 11-13.
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone ? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent ? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion ? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children : how much more shall your heavenly
: Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?
In repeating His words on a former occasion ? touching the power of prayer, the Lord here adds another comparison, that namely of the egg and the scorpion. The scorpion is a large and noxious insect of the East. He appeals to the feelings of any man among them that is a father. Such would not give 3 to his son, asking for food, anything useless or injurious. Even men of evil nature are in the habit of giving their children what is good. The Lord condescends to this comparison. God is likened to a father. He is indeed our Father, coming as it were out of Heaven" to answer the prayers of His children here on earth. He does not indeed always give us, nor does this title engage Him to give us, precisely what we ask. But one thing He has engaged Himself to give, even His best gift, that which is life to our souls. Much more than fathers give good gifts to their children, will He, who is our Father, give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. He does not say, as we might have expected in completing the sentence, to His children, | Abp. Trench
who are offended at the anthropo2 St. Matt. vii. 9, 10.
morphism of Holy Scripture, it may 3 The offer of the E. V. in v. 12 is suffice to answer that in no other way, the same word in the original as that with our present faculties, could man rendered in the previous verse give. have any idea of God.
• To those transcendental critics 5 See the original.