The disciples of John the Baptist, and the disciples of Christ, waited on their respective Masters for instruction how to pray. It was in vain that the duty of repentance was preached to the one, and of faith to the other; in vain that God's mercies and His judgments were set before them, and their own duties; they seemed to have all that was necessary for making prayers for themselves, yet they could not; their hearts were full, but they remained dumb; they could offer no petition except to be taught to pray; they knew the Truth, but they could not use it. So different a thing is it to be instructed in religion, and to have so mastered it in practice that it is altogether our own.
Their need has been the need of Christians ever since. All of us in childhood, and most men ever after, require direction how to pray; and hence the use of Forms of prayer, which have always obtained in the Church. John taught his disciples; Christ gave the Apostles the prayer which is distinguished by the name of the Lord's Prayer; and after He had ascended on high, the Holy Spirit has given us excellent services of devotion by the mouth of those blessed Saints, whom from time to time He has raised up to be overseers in the Church. In the words of St. Paul, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought;" [Rom. viii. 26.] but "the Spirit helpeth our infirmities;" and that, not only by guiding our thoughts, but by directing our words.
This, I say, is the origin of Forms of prayer, of which I mean to speak today; viz. these two undeniable truths, first, that all men have the same spiritual wants, and, secondly, that they cannot of themselves express them.