Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Some Thoughts on Prayer from “Good Thoughts in Bad Times and Other Papers”. Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

Not a Puritan, but good biblical sense in this:


SET prayers are prescript forms of our own or other's composing; such are lawful for any, and needful for some to use.

Lawful for any.  Otherwise God would not have appointed the priest (presumed of themselves best able to pray) a form of blessing the people; nor would our Saviour have set us his prayer, which (as the town-bushel is the standard both to measure corn and other bushels by) is both a prayer in itself, and a pattern or platform of prayer.

Needful for some. Namely, for such who as yet have not attained (what all should endeavour) to pray extempore by the spirit. But as little children, to whom the plainest and evenest room at first is a labyrinth, are so ambitious of going alone, that they scorn to take the guidance of a form or bench to direct them, but will adventure by themselves, though often to the cost of a knock and a fall. So many confess their weakness in denying to confess it, who, refusing to be beholden to a set form of prayer, prefer to say nonsense rather than nothing in their extempore expressions. More modesty, and no less piety, it had been for such men to have prayed longer with set forms, that they might pray better without them.

 IT is no base and beggarly shift (arguing a narrow and necessitous heart), but a piece of holy and heavenly thrift, often to use the same prayer again. Christ's practice is my directory herein, who the third time said the same words. [Matth. xxvi. 44.]

A good prayer is not like a stratagem in war, to be used but once. No, the oftener the better. The clothes of the Israelites, whilst they wandered forty years in the wilderness, never waxed old, as if made of perpetuano indeed. So a good prayer, though often used, is still fresh and fair in the ears and eyes of Heaven.

Despair not then, thou simple soul, who hast no exchange of raiment, whose prayers cannot appear every day at Heaven's court in new clothes.

Thou mayest be as good a subject, though not so great a gallant, coming  always in the same suit. Yea, perchance the very same which was thy father's and grandfather's before thee, (a well-composed prayer is a good heir-loom in a family, and may hereditarily be descended to many generations,) but know thy comfort, thy prayer is well known to Heaven,  to which it is a constant customer. Only add new, or new degrees of old affections thereunto, and it will be acceptable to God thus repaired, as if new erected.

MIXT prayers are a methodical composition (no casual confusion) of extempore and premeditate prayers put together. Wherein the standers still are the same, and the essential parts (confession of sin, begging of pardon, craving grace for the future, thanking God for former favours, &c.), like the bones of the prayer, remain always unaltered.

Whilst the movable petitions (like the flesh and colour of thy prayers) are added, abridged, or altered, as God's spirit adviseth and enableth us, according to the emergencies of present occasions. In the midland sea, galleys are found to be most useful, which partly run on the legs of oars, and partly fly with the wings of sails, whereby they become serviceable both in a wind and in a calm. Such the conveniency of mixt prayer, wherein infused and acquired graces meet together, and men partly move with the breath of the Holy Spirit, partly row on by their own industry. Such medley prayers are most useful, as having the steadiness of premeditate, and the activity of extemporary prayer joined together.

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