By Holly Culhane
We have much to learn from the Puritans. Their “strength of character and life lay in prayer and meditation,” as Arthur Bennett, editor of The Valley of Vision, has noted. These men and women of God clearly regarded these practices of utmost importance, believing that living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality.
Doug and I have been digging into these prayers and devotionals published by The Banner of Truth Trust out of Edinburgh which, from what I can tell, is now in its 20th printing. We are astounded at the heart behind every word. There is not a time that we pray through a Puritan prayer that the importance of these two disciplines – prayer and meditation – are not highlighted as key to shepherding others well.
Here’s a portion of the Morning Prayer, entitled Worship, for the first day of the week:
“We rejoice in another Lord’s Day
when we call off our minds from the cares of the world
and attend upon thee without distraction;
Let our retirement [from work for the day] be devout,
our conversation edifying,
our reading pious,
our hearing profitable,
that our souls may be quickened and elevated.
We are going to the house of prayer,
pour upon us the spirit of grace and supplication;
We are going to the house of praise,
awaken in us every grateful and cheerful emotion;
We are going to the house of instruction,
give testimony to the word preached,
and glory it in the hearts of all who hear;
may it enlighten the ignorant [someone lacking knowledge or awareness on a topic],
awaken the careless, reclaim the wandering,
establish the weak, comfort the feeble-minded,
make ready a people for their Lord.”*
Wow! See what I mean??
Study this Book of Instruction continually.
Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.
Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.
How can we shepherd well those we influence and impact without fully focusing on the Father when we are called to do so, retiring from the distraction of and fixation on other labors?
How can we fully appreciate the Lord’s Day, whenever and wherever we observe it, if we do not view the space we’re in during that time as one of prayer, praise, and instruction?
Should we not, as under-shepherds-in-training, assure that in those moments we ask the Spirit to pour upon us whatever He will, awaken us to every grateful and cheerful emotion, and aid us in giving testimony to the Word preached, as well as the ability to glory in it with others?
Do we not need to be more knowledgeable, cautious, settled, strong, and well-thought-out, making ourselves ready to be used by the Good Shepherd?
May our answers to these questions, dear fellow shepherd, sink deeply into practice in our everyday lives, as we allow the Good Shepherd to influence our leadership behaviors.
*Words in brackets are added for clarity as the terminology used dates to the 16th and 17th Centuries.