An edited extract from the writings of William Bridges
YOU desire to have enlargements and warm workings of the heart in prayer: but what would you do with those enlargements? Would you shew your enlargements, your excellencies, your graces to God when you come to duty? A beggar, you know, if he has any excellent thing such as gold or silver, hides it, and shows his wounds, he shows his sores. If you mean to give him a penny, and ask him if he has any money, he may say, “I have threepence, Sir.” But he hides his money, and he lays open his wounds; and if he can but open his sores before you, he thinks he begs effectually.
Beloved, we must all go to God in prayer in forma pauperis (in the form of a beggar). If your heart then be straitened, if your heart be hard, and if your spirit be dull in duty, you may go to God and open your sores and wounds before him. You may go and say, “Lord, what a hard heart have I, and what a dull and straitened spirit have I!” This befits a beggar and you must come as a beggar when you come before Him.
Yet you must know that neither your poverty nor your riches, neither your straitenings in duty nor your enlargements, make any alteration in the mind and will of God. Indeed, God seems to deal with us sometimes as a father does with his little child. A father holds a piece of gold or silver in his hand, and says, “If you can get this out of my hand you shall have it.” So the child strives and pulls, and works, and then the father opens his hand by degrees, first one finger, then another, and then another, and at last his whole hand; and the child thinks he has got the money by his own strength and labour, whereas the father intended to give it him, but in that way.
So God intends to give us a mercy in the way of prayer; He sets us praying for it, and we think we obtain it by the strength of our own prayer, as if we did move and change the will of God by our duty. But all the enlargements in the world make no alteration to the will of God; He is unmoveable, unchangeable, and the same for ever. Nevertheless, He will give out His blessings in answer to prayer. Therefore it is our duty to pray; yet we must not be discouraged though we cannot pray as we would.