Jonathan Edwards on Prayer
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4.1
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
“In the apostolic age, there was the greatest outpouring of the Spirit of God that ever was; both as to his extraordinary influences and gifts, and his ordinary operations, in convincing, converting, enlightening, and sanctifying the souls of men. But as the influences of the true Spirit abounded, so counterfeits did also abound…This made it necessary that the church of Christ should be furnished with some certain rules, distinguishing and clear marks, by which she might proceed safely in judging of the true from the false without the danger of being imposed upon.”
Christians in every generation long to know the blessing of God and the power and presence of His Spirit. And, as in the first generation of the Church, so in every age, there are those who claim to be the latest iteration of God’s favor on His people. They have this going for them, that abounding, and other things in evidence way beyond what most of our churches ever dare to think or hope. But how can we know whether these things are what we should be seeking, and, more to the point, what we should be praying for as individuals and congregations? Unless we test the spirits in any age, we shall not be able to discern the true works of God’s Spirit, and seek these accordingly. Jonathan Edwards understood this need in his day, when revival fires were rekindling, and some were doubting their authenticity. As his Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God served to guide his generation, so it can be useful for us as well, encouraging us to seek and pray for a renewed flourishing of God’s Spirit among us.
What vision of God’s blessing and favor guides the ministries of your church? How confident are you that this is the vision God wants you to pursue?
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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 are from Jonathan Edwards, Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, in Edward Hickman, ed. The Works of Jonathan Edwards(Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1834, 1995), Vol. Two, pp. 257ff.