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(6.) My sixth advice and counsel is this, Be fervent, be warm, be importunate with God in all your closet duties and performances. James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much;” or, as the Greek has it “the working prayer;” that is, such working prayer as sets the whole man on work, as sets all the faculties of the soul, and all the graces in the soul, at work. The word signifies such a working as notes the liveliest activity that can be. Certainly, all those usual phrases of crying, wrestling, and striving with God, which are scattered up and down in Scripture, do strongly argue that holy importunity and sacred violence that the saints of old have expressed in their addresses to God. [Psalm 55:1; Psalm 61:1; Psalm 64:1; Psalm 88:1,13; Psalm 119:164; Jon 2:1‑2; Joel 2:13; Psalm 119:145,147; Psalm 119:20] Fervency feathers the wings of prayer, and makes them fly the swifter to heaven. An arrow, if it be drawn up but a little way, flies not far; but if it be drawn up to the head, it will fly far, and pierce deeply: so fervent prayer flies as high as heaven, and will certainly bring down blessings from thence. [257]

 Cold prayers call for a denialCbut fervent prayers offer a sacred violence both to heaven and earth. Look! as in a painted fire there is no heat; so in a cold prayer there is no heat, no warmth, no omnipotency, no devotion, no blessing. Cold prayers are like arrows without heads, as swords without edges, as birds without wings: they pierce not, they cut not, they fly not up to heaven. Such prayers as have no heavenly fire in them, do always freeze before they reach as high as heaven. [258]

 He wrestles and weeps, and weeps and wrestles; he tugs hard with God, he holds his hold, and he will not let God go, until as a prince he had prevailed with him. Fervent prayer is the soul’s contention, the soul struggling with God; it is a sweating work, it is the sweat and blood of the soul, it is a laying out to the uttermost all the strength and powers of the soul. He who would gain victory over God in private prayer, must strain every string of his heart; he must, in beseeching God, besiege him, and so get the better of him; he must be like importunate beggars, that will not be put off with frowns, or silence, or sad answers. Those who would be masters of their requests, must, like the importunate widow, press God so far as to put him to a holy blush, as I may say with reverence: they must with a holy impudence, as Basil speaks, make God ashamed to look them in the face, if he should deny the importunity of their souls. [259]

 Cold prayers are stillborn children, in whom the Father of spirits can take no pleasure. Look! as a painted man is no man, and as painted fire is no fire; so a cold prayer is no prayer. Such prayers never win upon the heart of God, which do not first warm our own hearts. As a body without a soul, much wood without a fire, a bullet in a gun without powder; so are all prayers without fervency of spirit.

 Those prayers that are but lip‑labor are lost labor; and therefore, in all your closet prayers, look to the fervency of your spirits. [260]