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What is prayer?

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered, or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters rest with prayer.

JAMES MONTGOMERY 
(1771-1854)

James Montgomery was only five when his parents left him in boarding school and shipped off as missionaries to the West Indies, never to be seen again. Remarkably, James grew up to be a prominent publisher, hymnist, and avid supporter of overseas missions. He wrote four hundred hymns, the best-known being the Christmas carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” But Montgomery later said he received more praise for this hymn than anything else he had written. It a hymn that explains prayer in a wonderfully poetic way!

The hymn assures that in some prayer is not very difficult because if we are in union with Christ, our entire being is lived in His presence. He hears our every sigh and sees our every tear. Alexander Whyte makes the same point that Montgomery makes when he says,
To say within ourselves, "I will arise and go to my Father,"-that is to begin to pray. To see what we are, and to desire to turn from what we are-that also is to pray. In short, every such thought about ourselves, and about God, and about sin and its wages, and about salvation, its price and its preciousness; every foreboding thought about death and judgment and heaven and hell; every reflection about the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ; and every wish of our hearts that we were more like Jesus Christ: all our reading of the Word, all our meditation reflection, contemplation, prostration and adoration; all faith, all hope, all love; all that, and all of that same kind,-it all comes, with the most perfect truth and propriety, under the all-embracing name of "prayer"; it all enters into the all-absorbing life of prayer.

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