No. 3

Luke 9:29
And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered,
and his raiment was white and glistering.
This change of our Lord's appearance, when the beams of his glory shone through the veil of flesh which he assumed for our sakes, is called his transfiguration.  Matthew and Mark say, He was transfigured before them. [1]  Luke adds a farther circumstance, which is worthy of our attention, that it took place while he was praying.  If, as it is probable, this was the subject of his prayer, that his glory might be manifested to his disciples, he obtained an immediate and signal answer, and no wonder, for he is always heard.  He never asked in vain.  Here lies the safety and comfort of his people, that he has engaged to intercede for all that come unto God by him, and therefore because he pleads their cause, they cannot be overpowered.
But our Lord when in the action of prayer while he was upon earth may be considered not only as their Advocate, but their exemplar and pattern.  He commanded them to pray, he taught them to pray, and he added force to his precept by his own example.  And he gave them here a great encouragement to persevere in prayer, and that they might hope, that when they drew near to God in duty, he would draw near to them, for as he prayed he was transfigured.  In this view I shall propose one observation for our improvement at present, before I come to consider the transfiguration itself.
Prayer is the great instituted means of impressing the soul with such a sense of the glory of God, as transforms it into his resemblance, and raises it to a kind of transfiguration – or, the sweetest and most transforming impression of divine things, are usually afforded in a season of prayer.  As it was with the Head so it is with the members: while they are praying they are transfigured.
Many arguments may be offered to enforce this practice of prayer – from duty as we are the Lord's creatures, from necessity as we depend upon him for our continual support – but this argument arising from the dignity and privilege should have an especial weight with all who have tasted that the Lord is gracious.  To confirm the point I shall offer the following remarks.
1. Prayer is the ordinance in which we have most immediate access to God. It is the most spiritual part of worship, which is the reason why our carnal hearts are most averse to it.  In conversing and hearing, it is more easy to keep up some attention, without the actual exercise of grace.  And therefore we find many ready enough to talk with Christians, or to hear sermons, who know but little of waiting upon God in secret.  To keep up this intercourse the soul must be habitually disposed to seek the Lord for his own sake.  In prayer, if spiritually performed, we turn our backs upon creatures, and call home our thoughts to fix them immediate upon God in Christ as seated on his throne of glory.  It seems plain therefore that this exercise is peculiar[ly] suited to engage our hearts.  Hence they that live much in prayer may be said to live much with God, and as frequency of visits gives acquaintance and freedom, they are most in the way of receiving peculiar manifestations from him.

On this account I would remark, that though it is very desirable to maintain a praying frame at all times and in all places, so as to be able to lift up our hearts to him, in ejaculations and breathings, in our common occasions, and as we are walking in the streets, yet it is our wisdom to be punctual in observing set times of approaching him.  There are some great ends in prayer, particularly the contemplation of his glory, which seem to require a retired and solemn attendance upon him.
2. The graces which are most immediately exercised in prayer, are those which have an especial tendency to raise the soul above itself and above the world.  Such as:
  2.1 Faith
The enlightened mind, when addressing itself to wait on God, will often feel a question rising.  Why dost thou this?  How dare you, a poor sinner, approach the Holy God?  Faith answers this question and pleads the Redeemer's name, his life, death and mediation.  These thoughts lead the soul to take a view of the mystery of redemption, to see the strong foundation which God has laid in Zion.  Hence arise admiration and praise.  Now the Apostle says, that so far as we by faith behold the glory of the Lord we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory. [2]
  2.2 Love
When we find ourselves brought into the presence of the great King, and that unworthy and as unfaithful as we are, we have a right to call him Father, we are led to reflect, To what do I owe this privilege?  Thus the love of God and the love of Jesus are brought to mind.  O I was afar off once, I little thought he would do this for me.  A sense of this love kindles love in our heart.  And the more we love the more we are transfigured – for he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him.
  2.3 Trust
While we are conversing with creatures we are prone to rest too much upon them, but in prayer we leave them all, and charge our souls as David, Wait thou only upon God. [3]  By faith we apprehend his power engaged in behalf of his people; by love we give ourselves to him and appropriate his all-sufficiency to ourselves and thus are enabled to act trust in God, which is a grace that refines and enobles the soul, and frees it from all vain and selfish pursuits, which, in whatever degree they prevail, are chiefly owing to a want of confidence in God.
  2.4 Humiliation
A sight of God gives us a sense of our imperfection, and abases us into the dust before him.  So Job, Isaiah, Daniel and John found it. [4]  Now this is the frame of mind, to which the Lord has promised to look; when we are thus abased he will honour.
  Here and there we may see the ground of what has been frequently observed, that declensions of religion begin at the closet door.  To omit prayer, is to omit the best means in which the principal graces of the divine life are exercised, strengthened and fed.
3. For the discharge of this duty, we are promised the assistance of God's Holy Spirit, to show us the things of Jesus, to remind us of our wants, to put arguments in our mouths.  Our prayers, so far as they are spiritual, are not our own.  They are not to be judged of by the outward expressions; perhaps we cry and chatter like a swallow, but he powerfully helpeth, even when his people can only bring forth groanings which cannot be uttered. [5]  What wonder then, considering the Spirit pleads in them below, while Jesus pleads for them above, that they sometimes find the light of heaven and glory opening upon their hearts.
If these things are so, may we not take up a lamentation, that we are so unskilful or so remiss in this great mystery of holding communion with God in prayer.  Let me speak to your hearts and mine.  If we would be successful and comfortable in prayer:
1. We must be frequent.  Even friends lose intimacy and freedom, if they are not often together.  We may stay from a person we love, till we hardly care about them.
2. We must guard against formality.  There is too much of this ready to steal even upon believers.  We dare not omit prayer, but are careless in the performance. Formality is the bane of every duty, but especially of this.
3. We should have this especially in view when we pray: that we may see God.
4. Watchfulness must be joined with prayer. Indeed one is not practicable without the other.
You that have lived without prayer, it is time that you begin.

[1] See Introduction for Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2.
[2] 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
[3] Psalm 62:5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.
[4] Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
Daniel 10: 5-8 5 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.
Matthew Henry writes of Daniel 10:5: ‘There he looked up, and saw one man Christ Jesus. It must be he, for he appears in the same resemblance wherein he appeared to St. John in the isle of Patmos, Rev. 1:13-15.’ ESV Study Bible comments: ‘Yet this glorious figure was unable to complete his task without the help of Michael (v13), so it is unlikely that this is a physical manifestation of God or Christ.’
Revelation 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
[5] Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(16), N40

Marylynn Rouse, 06/08/2020