Characteristic of those Reformed scholastic theologians in the Nadere Reformatie, Witsius blended the best of rigorous, academic theology with a warm, experiential praxis of the faith. A great example of this is his precision when speaking about what prayer is, which all too naturally leads Witsius to discuss the ardency with which sincere Christians approach our covenant Lord in supplication. The following is a quote from his Sacred Dissertations on the Lord’s Prayer.
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In prayer itself we must observe:
- That the prayer proceed from faith (James 1:6, 7). This implies 1), some hope, at least, that our persons have been accepted by God. 2) A conviction that the thing asked is good. 3) A belief, resting on the promise of God, that it will be obtained, but accompanied by submission to the Divine wisdom and goodness, which perhaps has looked out something better for us.
- That it be performed with attention – with attention to God, to the things asked, and to ourselves. Lauspergius, in his Manuel of a Christian Soldier, has elegantly said, “Keep your eye on God alone, as if there were not another being in the universe besides God and yourself.” Equally beautiful is the following statement, “If, while you are praying, you allow your mind to wander, you will resemble one who holds the bow, and yet cannot direct the arrow against his adversary.” Here, if anywhere does the old saying apply, Hoc age, do this, attend to the business at hand.
- That it be performed with fervor. Let the fire burn this incense, that “the Lord may smell a sweet savor.” “Let my prayers come up before Thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2). But let it be a sacred flame, kindled by the Holy Spirit, at the farthest possible removed from the fire of lust and of depraved affections (James 4:2 – 3). Such is that earnestness in prayer, which is mentioned with commendation in various passages of holy writ – “he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). “Earnest prayer was made by the church unto God” (Acts 12:5).
- That it be performed without ceasing. The mind must be kept in a state of prayer, and, very frequently, as occasion offers, during the intervals of other employments, and even in the midst of these employments, it must send forth warm breathings towards God. Stated prayers, too, on matters of very high importance, ought to be frequently repeated, renewing unceasingly the struggle, until at length you come off a conqueror. “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26). This is “always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).