Ussher on Public Prayer

January 7, 2011

Ussher says:

The Spirit of Prayer stands not in the readines of invention, or volubility of Speech: that is a Gift: but a Com[m]on Gift: a worke of witt, and Exercise, A worke of the minde, not of the Heart: a man may bee as Reprobate as Judas for all that.

A Set forme gives more liberty to my Affections, then an Extempory Prayer: for an Extempory Prayer sets my witts more a worke, then my Heart: for while I am busy about invention, what I should say, and How I should say, my Heart cannot earnestly Attend the thinge: This is the devils greatest Policy, to bring in Prophanenes to men…to take away Set formes of Prayer, brings in the devils Harvest: for by this meanes not the tenth Part of the kingdome will Pray.

A vaine Superstition is crept in amongst us, to thinke that God is pleased with variety of Phrases, and multiplicity of words: God lookes to the language of the Heart… I would have thee doe Both: mingle a Set forme, and Extempory Prayer togeither: in Private Speake thyne owne words: God will beare with thy Broken language in Private: not so in Publiq[ue], hee will not beare thy Tautologies, and vaine Repititions: God will bee Honoured in Publique: In Private, put thyself upon Extempory Prayer upon emergent occasion…

I call not that Extempory Prayer, when there is Premeditation Before hand.

He suggests taking a set form, fixing on some point, and then adding your own words, a practice that he has found helpful.


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