Here is another prayer directed to God, as the God of hope; and it is, as the former (Rom. 15:5), for spiritual blessings: these are the blest blessings, and to be first and chiefly prayed for.
I. Observe how he addresses himself to God, as the God of hope. It is good in prayer to fasten upon those names, titles, and attributes of God, which are most suitable to the errand we come upon, and will best serve to encourage our faith concerning it. Every word in the prayer should be a plea. Thus should the cause be skilfully ordered, and the mouth filled with arguments. God is the God of hope. He is the foundation on which our hope is built, and he is the builder that doth himself raise it: he is both the object of our hope, and the author of it. That hope is but fancy, and will deceive us, which is not fastened upon God (as the goodness hoped for, and the truth hoped in), and which is not of his working in us. We have both together, Ps. 119:49. Thy word—there is God the object; on which thou hast caused me to hope—there is God the author of our hope, 1 Pet. 1:3.
II. What he asks of God, not for himself, but for them.
1. That they might be filled with all joy and peace in believing. Joy and peace are two of those things in which the kingdom of God consists, Rom. 14:17. Joy in God, peace of conscience, both arising from a sense of our justification; see Rom. 5:1, 2. Joy and peace in our own bosoms would promote a cheerful unity and unanimity with our brethren. Observe, (1.) How desirable this joy and peace are: they are filling. Carnal joy puffs up the soul, but cannot fill it; therefore in laughter the heart is sad. True, heavenly, spiritual joy is filling to the soul; it has a satisfaction in it, answerable to the soul’s vast and just desires. Thus does God satiate and replenish the weary soul. Nothing more than this joy, only more of it, even the perfection of it in glory, is the desire of the soul that hath it, Ps. 4:6, 7, 36:8; 63:5; 65:4. (2.) How it is attainable. [1.] By prayer. We must go to God for it; he will for this be enquired of. Prayer fetches in spiritual joy and peace. [2.] By believing; that is the means to be used. It is vain, and flashy, and transient joy, that is the product of fancy; true substantial joy is the fruit of faith. Believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, 1 Pet. 1:8. It is owing to the weakness of our faith that we are so much wanting in joy and peace. Only believe; believe the goodness of Christ, the love of Christ, the promises of the covenant, and the joys and glories of heaven; let faith be the substance and evidence of these things, and the result must needs be joy and peace. Observe, It is all joy and peace—all sorts of true joy and peace. When we come to God by prayer we must enlarge our desires; we are not straitened in him, why should we be straitened in ourselves? Ask for all joy; open thy mouth wide, and he will fill it.
2. That they might abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. The joy and peace of believers arise chiefly from their hopes. What is laid out upon them is but little, compared with what is laid up for them; therefore the more hope they have the more joy and peace they have. We do then abound in hope when we hope for great things from God, and are greatly established and confirmed in these hopes. Christians should desire and labour after an abundance of hope, such hope as will not make ashamed. This is through the power of the Holy Ghost. The same almighty power that works grace begets and strengthens this hope. Our own power will never reach it; and therefore where this hope is, and is abounding, the blessed Spirit must have all the glory.
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