I am constantly amazed at the combination of devotion and scholarship present in Puritan authors. They demonstrate that there is no contradiction between careful, dedicated study and reverent worship to God. George Swinnock, fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, ejected minister of the Church of England and later pastor to a Congregational church in his hometown of Maidstone, Kent, penned these wonderful words about prayer. Have you ever contemplated the rich blessing that is prayer? Swinnock will help you here.
George Swinnock on Prayer
Prayer hath a twofold pre-eminence above all other duties whatsoever, in regard of the universality of its influence, and opportunity for its performance. The universality of its influence. As every sacrifice was to be seasoned with salt, so every undertaking and every affliction of the creature must be sanctified with prayer; nay, as it sheweth the excellency of gold that it is laid upon silver itself, so it speaketh the excellency of prayer, that not only natural and civil, but even religious and spiritual actions are overlaid with prayer. We pray not only before we eat or drink our bodily nourishment, but also before we feed on the bread of the Word and the bread in the sacrament. Prayer is requisite to make every providence and every ordinance blessed to us; prayer is needful to make our particular callings successful. Prayer is the guard to secure the fort-royal of the heart; prayer is the porter to keep the door of the lips; prayer is the strong hilt which defendeth the hands; prayer perfumes every relation; prayer helps us to profit by every condition; prayer is the chemist that turns all into gold; prayer is the master-workman: if that be out of the way, the whole trade stands still, or goeth backward. What the key is to the watch, that prayer is to religion; it winds it up, and sets it agoing. It is before other duties in regard of opportunity for its performance. A Christian cannot always hear, or always read, or always communicate, but he may pray continually. No place, no company can deprive him of this privilege. If he be on the top of a house with Peter, he may pray; if he be in the bottom of the ocean with Jonah, he may pray; if he be walking in the field with Isaac, he may pray when no eye seeth him; if he be waiting at table with Nehemiah, he may pray when no ear heareth him. If he be in the mountains with our Saviour, he may pray; if he be in the prison with Paul, he may pray; wherever he is, prayer will help him to find God out. Every saint is God’s temple; “and he that carrieth his temple about him,” saith Austin, “may go to prayer when he pleaseth.” Indeed, to a Christian every house is an house of prayer, every closet a chamber of presence, and every place he comes to an altar whereon he may offer the sacrifice of prayer.