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Does God Hear Scripted Prayers?

Lessons from a Puritan Controversy

Article by

Professor, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

ABSTRACT: When the Act of Uniformity (1662) mandated that all English clergy must adhere to the Book of Common Prayer, controversy ensued among the Puritans. Some Puritans, like John Owen and John Bunyan, argued that written prayers in corporate worship violated Scripture and could quench the Spirit. Others, like Richard Baxter, resisted the Act of Uniformity, but still maintained that written prayers could aid Christians’ corporate worship and prevent disorder. Their disagreement reveals how greatly the Puritans prized biblical worship; it also calls Christians today to pray from sincere and engaged hearts, with words shaped by Scripture.

The last seventy years have witnessed a resurgence in interest in the Puritans. Two events in particular have catapulted the Puritans from the dusty pages of history into the center of mainstream Calvinism. The first was the establishing Banner of Truth Trust in 1957 in order to republish the classics of Puritan literature. Then, recent decades have witnessed the emergence of the New Calvinist movement, which finds its historical and theological roots within the Puritan movement. The result is that there are many (myself included) who are zealous to put down the often-repeated stereotype that the Puritans were those who had “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”1

Some observers of Christianity also have noted how some evangelicals (including those who identify as Reformed) have drifted toward a more liturgical approach to worship.2 In recent years, Christians have desired to understand the Puritans’ view of the use of written prayers in both corporate and private worship. Although many Puritans argued against the Book of Common Prayer’s prescription to use written prayers in corporate worship, some Puritans believed that such a practice was consistent with biblical worship. Moreover, most Puritans — even those who were opposed to the use of written prayers in public worship — believed that it was perfectly legitimate to use written prayers in one’s own private or even family worship.

This article will examine the most important arguments put forward by some of the most influential Puritans — particularly John Owen, John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, and Matthew Henry. It will survey their arguments for and against the use of written prayers in both public and private worship. It will end by exploring four lessons we can learn from studying the Puritans’ perspectives on these important issues.

Persecuted Puritans

In order to grasp why many Puritan divines opposed the use of any set prayers in public worship, it is important to remember the historical context in which the Puritans lived and ministered.3 The Puritan movement began in the early 1560s, when the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne, following the death of her Catholic sister, Queen Mary I. As a result of this transition, English Puritans were able to return home from Continental Europe (particularly John Calvin’s Geneva), where they had been living in exile to avoid Catholic persecution.

They brought with them newly forged convictions about the nature of biblical — and, in their mind, truly reformed — doctrine, worship, and church polity. They believed the Church of England — with its commitment doctrinally to the Thirty-nine Articles, liturgical set forms of prayer (outlined in the Book of Common Prayer), and episcopal polity — was a “half-reformed” church in need of further reformation along the lines of Calvin’s Geneva. Thus, for the next century, they sought to reform the Church of England. Some pursued these ideals as somewhat-loyal members of the Church of England, while others remained outside the established church and attempted (and often failed) to set up structures alongside it.

While the first eighty years of the Puritan movement saw little success, the 1640s and 1650s were the golden age — insofar as the Puritans’ aspiration of forming a national church on Puritan principles was now within their grasp. However, when Puritanism’s political leader, Oliver Cromwell, died in 1658 and his son Richard took his place as Lord Protector of England, Oliver’s son lacked the charismatic leadership and giftedness of his father. Within two years, Puritans concluded that their vision of a national church would be better executed in the stable soil of a restored monarchy rather than a failing republic. Consequently, the Puritans invited Charles II — son of Charles I, whom they executed in 1649 — out of exile to reinstate the monarchy.

The initial negotiations between parliament and Charles II for a “broadly inclusive” national church that would grant liberty to Puritan consciences around polity and worship looked promising. However, following the failure to reach a consensus on the particular scope and structures of the newly forming church and the election of a new slate of young “Cavalier” Anglicans to parliament in 1661, the political and ecclesiastical tide turned wholly in favor of the Anglicans and against the now-marginalized Puritans.

Now, not only were the Puritans’ hopes for a broadly inclusive national church dashed, but the likelihood of persecution was imminent as the established church handed down a mandate known as the Act of Uniformity (1662). The Act of Uniformity required all ordained English clergy to repudiate their former presbyterian ordination and political allegiances and to submit themselves to reordination by a bishop and to adherence to the liturgical ideals outlined in the Book of Common Prayer, which had had just been revised in a more Anglican direction. Those ministers who failed to conform in writing would lose both their ministerial posts and the livings tied to those posts.4 In the end, over two thousand clergymen in England and Wales failed to conform and were ejected from their pulpits and livings. It was the most significant and systematic persecution of Puritans in their over one-hundred-year history.5

Against Written Prayers in Corporate Worship

Given their conviction that the Church of England was a “half-reformed” church and their experience of persecution by the church they sought to reform, it is not surprising that many Puritan divines opposed the use of any written prayers in public worship. Consider some of the arguments Puritans like John Owen and John Bunyan raised against the practice.

Written prayers violate the regulative principle.

The clearest reason Puritans opposed such prayers is because they believed their use violated the regulative principle for worship — namely, that nothing should be done in corporate worship unless it is prescribed by God’s word.

In one of the most formidable defenses of the regulative principle and his most extended critique on the Church of England, John Owen (1616–1683) argued that his commitment to the regulative principle of worship, and particularly the second commandment, necessitated his opposition to the use of written prayers in public worship.6 Owen argued that they were “a human invention” and an idolatrous violation of the second commandment.7 He even contended that though the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write Scripture, they were never inspired to write “prescribe[d] forms of prayer, either for the whole church or single persons.”8 Thus, he concludes, if the very apostles were never tasked with this duty, “there is no such especial promise given unto any, this work of composing prayer.”9 Owen’s explanation for why written prayers existed in corporate worship was simple: throughout human history since the fall, man has devised other ways to “worship” God than those prescribed by the Lord himself as “revealed in the Word of God.”10

“The Puritans possessed a vital zeal to worship God according to the prescriptions of Scripture.”

John Bunyan (1628–1688) likewise defended the regulative principle of worship, specifically opposing written prayers because he “did not find” them “commanded in the word of God.”11 Simply put, these Puritans forbade the use of written prayers in corporate worship because the practice was not prescribed in Scripture.

Written prayers are a Catholic and even Old Testament practice.

Second, Puritans believed the use of written prayers in corporate worship was a Catholic and Old Testament practice. For example, both Owen and Bunyan argued that the Church of England’s use of written prayers rendered it guilty of the Catholic Church’s error of worshiping according to human invention.12 Owen went even further to argue that it reduced worship “to the very state and condition wherein they were in Judaism” and therefore was antithetical to Christ’s saving work. For Christ “delivered his disciples from the yoke of Mosaical institutions,” and the very destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 was a providential indication that a transition had taken place in the worship of God. In short, the Old Testament pattern was literally “buried in the ruins of the city and temple,” making it impossible to worship God in that way.13

Prayer is chiefly inward.

Third, Puritans argued that the Book of Common Prayer could not facilitate what was chiefly an inward, spiritual, sincere engagement of the affections expressed in external words. Following the Act of Uniformity, John Bunyan was imprisoned for his nonconformity and was denied the opportunity to be released from prison because he would not promise to cease preaching according to Puritan principles. Bunyan’s opposition to the use of written prayers in corporate worship was a central point of his trial discussion with authorities, especially Sir John Keeling, which took place seven weeks after his initial imprisonment.

In Bunyan’s Discourse Touching Prayer (1662), published during his imprisonment, he argued that the use of written prayers opposed the very essence of true prayer that was to be “with the spirit and with understanding” (see 1 Corinthians 14:15).14 Citing texts like Jeremiah 29:12–13 and echoing John Calvin and Matthew Henry, Bunyan said, “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God . . . for such things as God hath promised, or, according to the Word.”15 When he was asked by Keeling at his imprisonment trial if one could “pray with the spirit, and with understanding” using “the Common Prayer-book,” Bunyan replied that he was convinced “that it is impossible that all the Prayer-Books that men have made in the world should lift up or prepare the heart,” for “it is not the mouth that is the main thing to be looked at in prayer, but whether the heart be so full of affection and earnestness in Prayer with God.” When authorities defended the use of written prayers by arguing that “prayers made by men” “are good to teach, and help men to pray,” Bunyan replied that while “one man may tell another how he should pray,” neither he nor the prayer book could help that man “make his condition known to God” or “stirreth up in our hearts desires to come to God,” since that was the Spirit’s work to assist the believer in prayer (Romans 8:26).16

Indeed, Puritans believed that there was nothing distinctly spiritual about the utterance of specific familiar forms, for true spirituality involved engaging the affections in prayer, for only “then the whole man is engaged.”17 Since an emphasis on the importance of heart religion was a major theme laced throughout all of Puritan theology, it is not surprising that it would be central to their understanding of prayer.

Written prayers quench the Spirit.

Fourth, Bunyan and Owen argued that written prayers not only failed to facilitate true prayer, but quenched the Holy Spirit.18 Owen called written prayers “a stinted form of prayers,” whose “constant and unvaried use . . . may become a great occasion of quenching the Spirit.”19 Likewise, the Welsh Independent preacher Walter Cradock (c. 1606–1659) said that those who require using written prayers in public worship “restrain the Spirit of God in the Saints” as well as in the minister himself. For although a minister would come to the Lord in public prayer burdened to pour “out his soul to the Lord” for his congregation, he was “tied to an old Service Book” requiring him to “read” it until they “grieved the Spirit of God, and dried up” their “spirit[s] as a chip.”20

Ministers lead using Spirit-empowered public prayers.

Finally, Puritans argued that ministers were empowered to lead God’s people in corporate worship by the Spirit, rather than by the written words of man. Owen argued that the use of written prayers actually “render[ed] useless” Christ’s true means for leading in public prayer — namely, his “sending the holy Spirit . . . to enable” the minister to lead the congregation in “Divine Worship.”21 In Owen’s mind, there were two kinds of ministers: those who rightly administered the “holy things in his assemblies” by aid of the Holy Spirit, and those who ministered “by the prescription of a form of words” of men.22 Similarly, Bunyan said that even if ministers “had a thousand Common-Prayer-Books” but lacked the “Spirit,” they would “know not what [they] should pray for as [they] ought,” but would be “like the Sons of Aaron, offering with strange fire” (Levitcus 10:1–2).23 Owen and Bunyan likewise argued that since the Spirit must equip ministers with the ability to pray extemporaneously in public prayer, by extension those who relied on the prayer-book liturgy for public prayer lacked the necessary spiritual gifting from God for ministry.24 Puritans sought to even provide less-competent ministers with tools — like Nathaniel Vincent’s “Directions how to attain unto the gift of prayer and readiness of expression in that duty” — to help them grow in extemporaneous prayer.25

For Written Prayers in Corporate Worship

However, while the above arguments were pervasive throughout the Puritan movement, there were other Puritans — most notably, Richard Baxter (1615–1691) — who were open to using written prayers in corporate worship. While Baxter extolled extemporaneous prayer, understood these arguments against written prayers, and had significant concerns about (and desired to reform) the Book of Common Prayer, he nevertheless believed there were some advantages to using written prayers and, like John Calvin, composed set prayers for use in public worship.26 He even went so far as to compose a Puritan alternative to the Book of Common Prayer, complete with liturgical forms and written prayers drawn principally from Scripture and especially the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.27 He drafted it in only two weeks and claimed that he only used the Bible, his biblical concordance, and the Westminster “Assemblies Directory.”28 He hoped that his Reformed Liturgy (as it would be called) might be a substitite prayer book that his fellow moderate Presbyterians and Anglican opponents could both support.29 What follows are some of Baxter’s arguments in favor of the use of written prayers in corporate worship.

Written prayers can prevent disorder and unnecessary repetition.

First, Baxter argued that the use of written prayers in worship could prevent disorder and unnecessary repetition in public prayer. He argued that the public “prayers of many a weak Christian” were so plagued by “disorder and repetitions and unfit expressions” that he preferred that they use written prayers.30 He claimed that other Puritans held the same position, saying that the Westminster Assembly divine Simeon Ashe (1595–1662) “hath often told us, that this was the Mind of the old Nonconformists, and that he hath often heard some weak Ministers so disorderly in Prayer, especially in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, that he could have wish’d that they would rather use the Common-Prayer.”31

Written prayers can be a subordinate help to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Second, Baxter argued that the use of written prayers could function as a “help” that was “subordinate to the Spirit’s help.”32 He said that written prayers could help Christians to pray in the same way as “spectacles” help others to see or even “sermon notes” help “weak memories” — even sharing candidly that set “forms are oft a help to me.”33 While he agreed with those who contended that true prayer is from the heart, he argued against those who opposed written prayers on this ground, saying that “it is a great error to think, that the gifts and graces of the holy spirit may not be exercised, if we use the same words, or if they be prescribed.”34

The Lord’s Prayer is a written prayer.

Third, the Puritans were perhaps most open to the use of the Lord’s Prayer in public worship since it was prescribed by Jesus himself as a pattern for how to pray. The Westminster Assembly differed over the issue of whether to include the Lord’s Prayer in the Directory of Public Worship. Some divines were happy to include it, while others were reticent to compel churches to use the Lord’s Prayer in worship. While the former divines believed it would serve as a model to train congregants how to pray, the later group believed, as Bunyan and Owen had argued, that not even the mere words of the Lord’s Prayer could incite true prayer from the heart, as this is the Spirit’s work.35 In the end, the Directory of Public Worship did not require ministers to use the Lord’s Prayer in worship, but rather “recommend[ed]” it, as the Westminster divine William Gouge stated, as “a pattern of prayer” and “a most comprehensive prayer . . . to be used in the prayers of the Church.’”36

Written prayers have historical precedent.

Finally, Puritans, particularly Richard Baxter and John Preston (1587–1628), argued that there was sufficient historical precedent throughout the history of the church of trusted Reformed divines using written prayers in corporate worship. For example, John Preston wrote, “There is no doubt that a set form [of prayer] may be used” in public worship, as Luther, Calvin, the early church, and “the Church at all times” had done.37 The diversity of views throughout the history of the church led Baxter to the conclusion that a minister’s conviction concerning written prayer was a secondary matter upon which he should be given liberty of conscience “at his discretion,” since written prayers are “neither in their nature, or by vertue of any promise of God” pertaining “to mens salvation.”38 Understanding this is key to understanding Baxter’s position. For although Baxter himself was affected by the Act of Uniformity, and he defended ministers ejected in 1662, before and after the great ejection he labored to cultivate unity through negotiating a mediating position that might be agreeable to Puritans and Anglicans alike.

Puritan Divines Closer Than Assumed

These disagreements between Puritans over the use of written prayers in public worship were often hidden from public view. One notable exception was a clash between Owen and Baxter that was a result of Baxter receiving a copy of Owen’s Twelve Arguments against any Conformity to Worship not of Divine Institution and Baxter’s responding with his own work.39

Geoffrey Nuttall has persuasively argued that, despite their expressed differences, “Baxter and Owen in fact were . . . close spiritually” on the issue.40 For example, despite all of his opposition to the use of written prayers in corporate worship, at one point Owen appears to soften, expressing that while he does not desire to express “any dissent about” or “to judge or condemn” either the practice of or those who used written prayers, he does argue that it is not necessary to use them.41 This led Nuttall to conclude that perhaps part of the reason Owen and Baxter differed over written prayer was because Owen never got over the fact that it was the Anglicans’ zeal for set prayers that lead to their “silencing, destroying, [and] banishing” his fellow Puritan brothers.42

Using Private Prayer Books

While Puritans were divided about the use of written prayers in public worship, they were, on the whole, quite sympathetic to using private prayer books in personal and family worship. Their reason was singular and simple: they believed these prayer books could be especially helpful in aiding individuals and families in learning how to pray according to Scripture. They said that just as inflatable floaties (what they called “bladders”) could be helpful in aiding a new swimmer to swim, so these private prayer books could aid Christians in learning how to pray in both private and family prayers.43 While dozens of Puritans published these prayer books, many of the most well-known ones — such as Henry Scudder’s The Christian’s Daily Walk, John Preston’s The Saint’s Daily Exercise, Nathaniel Vincent’s The Spirit of Prayer, and Lewis Bayly’s The Practice of Piety — were reprinted continually throughout the seventeenth century in England.

“Puritans were, on the whole, quite sympathetic to using private prayer books in personal and family worship.”

Probably the most well-known of these private prayer devotionals was A Method for Prayer (1710) by the Presbyterian minister Matthew Henry (1662–1714). One gets a sense of the importance Henry placed on prayer by the fact that he actually paused finishing his now-famous commentary on the entire Bible to write it. Henry intentionally composed his work using only scriptural language to demonstrate “the sufficiency of the Scripture to furnish us for us for every good work” and to teach Christians how to plead the promises of God. Nevertheless, he conceded that it was “often necessary to use other expressions in prayer besides those that are purely Scriptural.”44

Henry’s book is organized according to a rather familiar pattern — adoration, confession, petitions and supplications for ourselves, thanksgiving, intercession for others, and a conclusion — that followed the basic outline of the “public prayer before the sermon” in the Westminster Directory for Public Worship.45 His prayer book also contains written prayers for numerous occasions, including daily morning and evening prayers, prayers of parents for their children, shortened prayers children could use to learn to pray, a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer for children and youth, and specific prayers for special blessings and challenges.46 There were also prayers one could pray privately (or presumably publicly) in a corporate worship service before the Lord’s Supper and during marriage or funeral services.

Learning from the Puritans

We can learn at least four lessons from studying the Puritans’ perspectives on written prayers. First, the Puritans possessed a vital zeal to worship God according to the prescriptions of Scripture rather than one’s own preferences. In a day in which many churches worship God according to the latest worldly or churchly trends in order to boost church attendance, appeal to unbelievers, or be relevant to the culture, the Puritans understood that God is honored by and will bless only scriptural worship.

“The chief instrument that must be engaged throughout the whole of corporate worship is the heart.”

Second, the Puritans urge us to pursue God with all our heart in corporate worship. Having worshiped in a variety of Reformed church settings over the years, I have noticed that sometimes those most zealous to preserve the regulative principle of worship appear most lacking in the Puritans’ central conviction — namely, that the chief instrument that must be engaged throughout the whole of corporate worship (praying, singing, hearing the sermon) is the heart. They understood that those who simply go through the motions of worship are no different from the Pharisees, of whom Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

Third, this study of the Puritans teaches us that it is possible for faithful Reformed people to differ over secondary matters — and that sometimes those variances are the result of either ignorance of the existence of similar practices within their own Reformed tradition or differing personal experiences. For example, in addition to Nuttall’s insight above about Owen’s and Baxter’s differing personal experiences of persecution, it is possible that some Puritans were not aware that influential Reformed divines like John Calvin composed written prayers for corporate worship.

Finally, the Puritans encourage us to use Scripture to shape our prayers and engage our hearts in prayer. Whether this insight is familiar or new to you, I would encourage you to use either the Psalms, Matthew Henry’s Method of Prayer, or the Valley of Vision collection of Puritan prayers as means to cultivate praying the Scriptures in your daily devotional times with God.47 One section of Matthew Henry’s Method for Prayer that I find particularly insightful is his exhortation to begin one’s Scripture reading and prayer time by meditation on Scripture so as to engage one’s affections toward vital communion with God.48 This practice encourages the believer to fix his “attention” wholly upon “the Lord” and to “set [himself] in his special presence.” Therein, the believer can “attend upon the Lord without Distraction” and without his heart being “far from him when” he draws dear God in prayer.49 Ultimately, the chief lesson the Puritans teach us is to seek the Lord in prayer with the full assurance that as we draw near to him, he will draw near to us (James 4:8).

  1. Cited in John Coffey, Politics, Religion, and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 19. 

  2. Robert Webber and Lester Ruth, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church, rev. ed. (New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2013). 

  3. Francis Bremer, “Prayer,” in Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia, ed. Francis J. Bremer and Tom Webster (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006), 486. 

  4. Ministers were given until August 24, 1662, to decide whether they would conform or face ejection. Ironically, this was the ninetieth anniversary of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Huguenots (French Calvinists). 

  5. This and the above two paragraphs are a summary of John Spurr, The Post-Reformation: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain in 1603–1714 (Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2016) 144–47. 

  6. John Owen, Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, vol. 15, Church Purity and Unity (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965), 39. Owen understood the gravity of publishing his critique at such a politically charged moment — namely, in the months immediately before the Act of Uniformity (1662). In fact, Crawford Gribben notes that Owen evaded the establishment’s “licensing laws” and did not disclose either the publisher or printer on the title page. Crawford Gribben, John Owen and English Puritanism: Experience of Defeat (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 216. 

  7. John Owen, Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, vol. 4, The Work of the Spirit (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1967), 241; Bremer, “Prayer,” 486. 

  8. Owen, Works, 4:340. 

  9. Owen, Works, 4:340. 

  10. John Bunyan, The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan, ed. Richard L. Greaves, vol. 2, The Doctrine of the Law and Grace unfolded and I will pray with the Spirit (orig. publ. 1663; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 248. For an excellent biography of Bunyan, see Richard L. Greaves, Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003). 

  11. John Bunyan, A Relation of the Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan, Minister of the Gospel at Bedford, in November 1660, in John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, ed. Roger Sharrock (orig. publ. 1765; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), 114, 116. 

  12. Owen, Works, 15:28–29; Richard Greaves, “John Bunyan (1628–1688),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (hereafter ODNB), 5. 

  13. Owen, Works, 15:7, 12. 

  14. Bunyan, Discourse Touching Prayer, 235–36; Bunyan, Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan, 114. 

  15. Bunyan, Discourse Touching Prayer, 235–36. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (orig. publ. 1536; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 3.20.29; Matthew Henry, A Method for Prayer with Scripture Expressions (London: Bible and Three Crowns, 1710), sig.A2v. Jeremiah 29:12–13: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” 

  16. Bunyan, Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan, 113–15, 118; Bunyan, Discourse Touching Prayer, 256–57. Also see Greaves, “John Bunyan,” ODNB

  17. Bunyan, Discourse Touching Prayer, 239. For similar statements, see Henry, Method for Prayer, sigs.A3v–A4r. 

  18. In fact, as Sinclair Ferguson has shown, the only time Owen actually wrote a lengthy account of the subject of prayer — namely, his Discourse of the Work of the Holy Spirit in Prayer (1678) — was “in the context of his work on the Holy Spirit.” Sinclair B. Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), 224. 

  19. Owen, Works, 15:12; 4:301. 

  20. Walter Cradock, Glad Tydings from Heaven; to the Worst Sinners on Earth (London: Matthew Simmons, 1648), 29. 

  21. Quoted in Richard Baxter, An Account of the Reasons Why the Twelve Arguments Said to be Dr. John Owen’s, Change Not my Judgement about Communion with Parish Churches (London: Thomas Parkhurst, 1684), 18. 

  22. Owen, Works, 15:10. 

  23. Bunyan, Discourse Touching Prayer, 248–49, 243. 

  24. Gribben, John Owen and English Puritanism, 217. 

  25. Nathaniel Vincent, The Spirit of Prayer (London: Thomas Parkhurst, 1674), 139–81. 

  26. Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae: Or, Mr. Richard Baxter’s Narrative of the Most Memorable Passages of his Life and Times, ed. N.H. Keeble, John Coffey, Tim Cooper, and Tom Charlton, vol. 2, Part II, Part III, and the Additions (orig. publ. 1696; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 126–27; Neile Keeble, “Richard Baxter (1615–1691),” ODNB; Gordon S. Wakefield, Puritan Devotion: Its Place in the Development of Christian Piety (London: Epworth Press, 1957), 69–70. For Baxter’s extolling of extemporaneous prayer, see Richard Baxter, A Breviate of the Life of Margaret . . . Wife of Richard Baxter (London: B. Simons, 1681), 9. On Calvin’s use of set prayers in public worship, see Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2012), 428–29. Calvin was critical, however, of at least parts of the Book of Common Prayer, even informing Thomas Cranmer that he disapproved, after having heard from “his sources,” “that many aspects of the mass were retained in the English liturgy.” Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 258. 

  27. Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, 2:125. 

  28. Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, 2:124. 

  29. Richard Baxter, A Petition for Peace (London: [s.n.], 1661), 4–5. He originally drafted the work as part of his participation in the Savoy Conference (1661) negotiations between his fellow moderate Presbyterians and their Anglican opponents for the establishment of a broadly inclusive national church. Although this proposal was rejected, some appeared to have favored it so much that they published it without his knowledge or approval. See Baxter, Petition for Peace, 2; Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, 2:123–26; Keeble, “Richard Baxter,” ODNB; Barry Till, “Participants in the Savoy Conference (act. 1661),” ODNB. The Savoy Conference of 1661 should not be confused with the Savoy Conference of 1658, in which Independent ministers like John Owen together drafted the Savoy Declaration (1658). 

  30. Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, 2:127. 

  31. Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, 2:127. 

  32. Baxter, An Account, 19. 

  33. Baxter, An Account, 19. 

  34. Baxter, An Account, 20. 

  35. Bunyan, Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan, 115; Owen, Works, 4:339. 

  36. William Gouge, A Guide to Goe to God; or, An Explanation of the Perfect Patterne of Prayer, the Lords Prayer (London: Edward Brewster, 1626); John Fesko, The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 353; Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 67; Bremer, “Prayer,” 486. 

  37. John Preston, The Saint’s Daily Exercise: A Treatise Unfolding the Whole Dutie of Prayer (London: Nicholas Bourne, 1629), 80. 

  38. Baxter, Petition for Peace, 2, 7. 

  39. The work was actually not published in print until 1720 as John Owen, Seventeen Sermons Preach’d by the Reverend Dr. John Owen . . . In Two Volumes (London: William and Joseph Marshall, 1720). See Nuttall, * Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience*, 72; Daniel R. Hyde, “‘The Fire that Kindleth All Our Sacrifices to God’: Owen and the Work of the Holy Spirit in Prayer,” in Kelly M. Kapic and Mark Jones, The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen’s Theology (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), especially 250–57, 259–70. 

  40. Nuttall, Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience, 72. 

  41. Owen, Works, 4:338–39. Moreover, despite his opposition to the Book of Common Prayer, Owen actually wrote a vindication of the English Church against the Catholic polemicist John Vincent Canes’s book Fiat lux (1662). There he defended that the Church of England followed “the Word of God, and the practice of the primitive Church.” Owen, Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, vol. 14, True and False Religion (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965), 109; Gribben, John Owen and English Puritanism, 218–19; Anthony Milton, England’s Second Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 446. 

  42. Nuttall, Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience, 72–73; Owen, Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, vol. 2, Communion with God (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965), 255. Also see Owen, Works, 4:299–300; and Tim Cooper, “Polity and Peacemaking: To What Extent Was Richard Baxter a Congregationalist?” in Church Polity and Politics in the British Atlantic World, c.1635–66, ed. Elliot Vernon and Hunter Powell (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020), 200–21. 

  43. Stephanie Sleeper, “Puritan Prayer Books,” in Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia, ed. Francis J. Bremer and Tom Webster (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006); Robert Elmer, introduction to Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans, ed. Robert Elmer (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 4. Though, Owen cautioned that “those who will never enter the water but with flags or bladders under them will never scarce ever learn to swim.” Owen, Works, 4:301. 

  44. Henry, Method for Prayer, sigs.A5v–A6r, 

  45. Henry, Method for Prayer, 1–161; Westminster Confession of Faith (orig. publ. 1646; Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1958), 376–79; Ligon Duncan III, “A Method for Prayers by Matthew Henry,” in The Devoted Life; An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Randall C. Gleason (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 240; Beeke and Jones, Puritan Theology, 884. While he believed this order was “a good method for prayer” and one “which has been generally approved,” he did not think it was necessary to “always tie ourselves to it.” Henry, Method for Prayer, sig.A6v–A7r. 

  46. The fact that he gave special attention to children is not surprising since he wrote nearly thirty works that were “principally concerned with family religion, instructing youth, and religious faith.” David Wykes, “Matthew Henry (1662–1714),” ODNB, 3. 

  47. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, ed. Arthur Bennet (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975), In his introduction to his revised edition of Henry’s Method of Prayer, Palmer Robertson gives some excellent counsel for how to read Henry’s book: “The best way to read this book is while you are on you knees, not while sitting in an easy chair. Then you may proceed to read in the following way: Read a brief section of the work — a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph. Then close your eyes or lift them to heaven. Rephrase what you read in your own words. O. Palmer Robertson, introduction to Matthew Henry, A Way to Pray: A Biblical Method for Enriching Your Prayer Life and Language by Shaping Your Words with Scripture, ed. O. Palmer Roberton (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2010), xx. 

  48. Henry, Method for Prayer, 2. 

  49. Henry, Method for Prayer, 1–2. 

(@GregASalazar) is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the elected Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pooler, GA.