[TEST] Prayer: A Lesson from the Puritans

I don’t know about you, but the spiritual discipline I struggle with the most is prayer. I know I am supposed to pray. I know Jesus showed me how to pray in the gospels. And I know that I make it harder than it needs to be. Oftentimes, we think prayer is about changing God’s mind. We forget that God is sovereign and knows the whole plan already. Instead, prayer changes us and our hearts' posture toward God. Prayer communicates our adoration to the Creator and allows us to commune with Him. 

A group of people that understood the power of prayer was the Puritans. The Puritans, like most religious groups, were born out of a time of upheaval. When King Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic Church and began The Church of England in the 16th century, there were many Christians who did not feel the new church was reformed enough (salvation is in Christ alone and not through works). In other words, the church was more of a political entity than a spiritual one. The Puritans, though never an official denomination, played a vital role in furthering the reformation in England and America in the 16th and 17th centuries. They are most well known for their prayers and meditations. 

The Puritan prayers were filled with adoration, deep theological truths, and confession of sin. Their prayers turned their hearts toward God and brought death to self. The prayer written below is from a book of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision. These prayers are not meant to be recited as some sort of rote exercise but the prayer’s purpose is to cause your heart to think of the ways you can worship your Savior, die to self, and remember you were bought with a price.

Written in old-world English, the prayer might seem outdated, but let me challenge you to write it out and then change it into modern-day English. This will be an exercise in prayer that will help propel you to further prayer topics of your own. The best way to learn how to pray is to keep praying. Writing out your prayers also gives you a record to look back and see how God has grown you, held you, comforted you, and answered the deep longings of your soul. 

Charles Spurgeon, known as the last great Puritan, once said, “Prayer can never be in excess.” You will never exhaust God with your prayers. He patiently awaits the times you approach His throne. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17–18, “pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I may feel as though I “fail” at prayer on a regular basis, but all God really desires is a willing heart to come to Him. Jesus paid the ultimate price for you and me so we can approach the throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16). Let’s take a page out of the Puritan’s prayer book and bend our knees and bow our heads and hearts before the Father. 

Meeting God

Great God, 

In public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood.

Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise.

Urged by my need, invited by thy promises, called by thy Spirit, I enter thy presence, worshipping thee with godly fear, awed by thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by thy love. 

I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay thee.

But I bring Jesus to thee in the arms of faith, pleading his righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that he will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice.

I bless thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the least sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. 

Bless me by revealing to me more of his saving merits, by causing thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give thee no rest until Christ shall reign supreme within me, in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to thee, and ever clings to the cross.