Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Moody Stuart and pulpit prayer

In a conference address to fellow-ministers, Moody Stuart reflected on ‘the duty of prayerfulness on the part of ministers, and its relation to the effective conducting of public prayer in the sanctuary.’ This is what he said:

‘The impressibleness of our people on the Sabbath depends much on prayer through the week; and their praying for us and for themselves depends much on our praying for them.

‘And then on the Sabbath how much hangs, not merely on the words that are spoken, but on the spirit in which we preach and pray. Especially in extemporary prayer, we are in constant danger of sinking into a formality perhaps more lifeless than if we were using a form; a formality which we must all have detected in ourselves, by falling into the groove of the same words for want of fresh life within. Or if in such a state we make an effort at the moment toward real prayer, the prayer is constrained and laboured, instead of the spontaneous utterance of our thoughts.

‘When the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart, out of spiritual desire, spiritual sorrow, or spiritual joy, what conciseness, what tenderness, what power is in the supplication, taking the people along with us in all our petitions, or else making them to feel their own lack of the spirit of grace.

‘This one ordinance in our Church of public prayer without a form of words, shuts us all up to a very peculiar necessity of becoming and continuing to be men of prayer; shuts us up under the pressure of a severe penalty, resting on ourselves and on our people week by week, as the sure consequence of our failure.’

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