Posted at Regeneration, Repentance and Reformation:
Preached by, Robert Lewis Dabney
Preached to, the 44th Va. Regiment, near Mossy Creek, Augusta, Virginia. May, 1862.
[This is perhaps the most remarkable discourse on our ineffectual prayers, I have ever read. –MWP]
[Author’s, note: After the battle of McDowell and the pursuit of Milroy and Schenk, Gen. Jackson returned by forced marches to effect his junction with Gen. Ewell, and to pay his respects to Banks. The point to which his march first tended was Harrisonburg. The Sabbath found him near the village of Mt. Solon, on Mossy Creek and there, although most eager to husband every moment, he paused, amidst the luxuriant fields and majestic groves of that beautiful region, to give the troops their day of sacred rest. The Sabbath proved to be one of unrivalled mildness and beauty. The author, then chief of Gen. Jackson’s staff, accompanied by him, went in the forenoon to preach in the camp of the famous 12th Georgia Regiment, then without a Chaplain. In the afternoon, he passed to the opposite extremity of the encampments, and delivered the following discourse to the 44th Virginia. Regiment]
The subject of our ineffectual prayers should be one of lively interest to all of us.
There has been, apparently, much asking among us. Often the Sabbath witnesses four formal prayers, in which we all profess to unite our voices and hearts, in a general concert. Many praying circles weekly, or perhaps daily, offer up their social petitions to God with less publicity. Every Christian waits before his God in secret, every day. Many large and varied requests are urged with him habitually, and with every form of repetition. But, alas; there has been much less ‘receiving’ than asking. Our prayers are, in seeming, abundant, and our answers scanty. Do you say, it is unsafe for shortsighted man to judge positively in this matter; because many of the prayers of Christians may be graciously accepted by their Father, and yet not specifically granted, for the reason that omniscient love has seen it was more merciful to withhold than to give; or because our God may purpose a full answer, but he may have seen that the fullness of time has not yet come; or because he is bestowing the gift, but in a way so different from our expectations, that we scarcely recognize it? I grant it all; but, after making allowance for such explanations, in every case to which they can be fairly applied, we must admit that a multitude of our requests remain wholly unanswered. We have prayed for growth in grace: Are we indeed advancing to the measure of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus? We have invoked the witness of the Spirit with our spirits: Are we rejoicing in hope of the glory of God? We have prayed for revival, and for the redemption of the souls of our heedless comrades: But alas; the ways of Zion still mourn, and our fellows are even now falling around us, unprepared, by battle and disease. We supplicate God to deliver our beloved country from the destroying sword; but enemies throng around her in increasing numbers, and assail her with more determined ferocity. Surely, we ask, and we receive not.
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