Jonathan Edwards on Prayer
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” Luke 18.9-11
Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
“They may commonly be present at public prayers in the congregation, and also at family prayer. This, in such places of light as this is, men commonly do before they are so much as awakened…Otherwise they may continue to attend upon prayer as long as they live, and yet may truly be said not to call upon God. For such prayer, in the manner of it, is not their own. They are present only for the sake of their credit, or in compliance with others. They may be present at these prayers, and yet have no proper prayer of their own.”
We can translate the NKJV’s rendering of the Pharisee at prayer as “he prayed thus to himself.” Which was true. He was only praying for his own advantage, an advantage which would have been increased by his standing prominently for all to see and hear. It’s fair to assume that this man didn’t have much of a prayer life – except, of course, that which he engaged so that others could see him praying. All kinds of men are guilty of this hypocrisy. They spend little or no time with the Lord in private prayer, but they say grace at the table for their families, pray with their children (maybe), and bow their heads to pray when everyone else does at church. Are they not participating in the life of prayer? Jonathan Edwards would answer, “No, they are not. They are only praying to themselves, for their prayers are only directed at making sure others see them as the men of prayer they’d like to be seen to be.” Or, as he actually did say, “They may be present at these prayers, and yet have no proper prayer of their own.”
Do you agree with Edwards on this point? Why or why not?
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Paul said that he wanted men everywhere to pray. But that won’t just happen. Someone will have to take the lead in showing men how to pray, enlisting them for the work, and helping them grow in consistency and power in their prayers. You have to start somewhere. Our booklet, If Men Will Pray, is a tool for learning to pray following Paul’s guidelines in 1 Timothy 2.1-8, and for enlisting another man for a 30-day prayer journey together. Watch this brief video, then order several copies of this booklet, and start enlisting your men for fuller, more consistent, and more satisfying lives of prayer (click here).
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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.
Praying to Themselves
- T.M. Moore
- March 8, 2017
If this is all the prayer we do, it's prayer in vain.
Jonathan Edwards on Prayer
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