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Gradual Collapse

Giving up private prayer doesn't happen all at once.

Jonathan Edwards on Prayer

So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. 1 Samuel 13.9

Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
“Men of this character can come to a neglect of secret prayer by degrees without shocking their peace. For though indeed for a converted person to live in a great measure without secret prayer, is very wide of the notion they once had of a true convert; yet they find means by degrees to alter their notions, and to bring their principles to suit with their inclinations; and at length they come to a notion, that a man may be a convert, and yet live very much in neglect of this duty.”

Saul did not become a king rejected by God in a sudden collapse or moral or spiritual failure. He declined by degrees, at every turn justifying his unwise decisions and actions with flimsy excuses (is there any other kind?). Edwards says that new converts know that they should keep times of secret prayer with the Lord. And, for a while, many of them do. But it’s easy – oh, so easy – to let those times go, sacrificed on the altar of busyness or disinterest. And at every stage we tell ourselves, “It’s OK, I’m still a loyal follower of the Lord. I know I don’t pray very much, but then, no one else I know prays very much, either.” Like Saul, we justify actions contrary to the Word of God, because they suit our mood or “inclinations.” Soon enough we learn to live with the idea that not praying very much is not all that bad. No matter whatGod says.

What are some of the things that tend to get in the way of your practice of private prayer? How do you overcome these obstacles?

The Poetry of Prayer

It matters how we look at prayer. If we do not find prayer alluring, fraught with potential for knowing the Lord and growing in Him, and a resource for revival that can empower our daily lives, then we’re not likely to spend much time in prayer. Our book, The Poetry of Prayer, can help you look at prayer through new eyes. Following 17th century poet George Herbert, we meander through a showcase of illustrations designed to put prayer in a new and more appealing light, and to encourage us to make more of this great privilege. Along the way, exercises can help us appropriate George Herbert’s images for an enriched experience of prayer. Order your copy by clicking here.

Mission Partners Outreach
Thinking and living like a Christian begins in our daily lives, as we are going about in the world to which God sends us each day. Our Mission Partners Outreach programcan equip you to equip your church members to identify and work their Personal Mission Fields from the vantage point of a Gospel worldview and Holy Spirit power. I’m looking for some men to go through this program with me. If you’d like me to take you through this free, six-month program, and help you see how it could be used in your church, drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Fellowship of Ailbe is supported through the generous and faithful gifts of those who benefit from and believe in our work. Does the Lord want to use you in this way? Please look to Him in prayer over this question. You can contribute to The Fellowship of Ailbe by using the Contribute button at our website, or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Thank you.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All quotations from Jonathan Edwards, “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer” in Edward Hickman, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1834, 1995), Volume Two, pp. 71 ff.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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