Prayer is a Thing Most Necessary: Second Book of Homilies

From An Homily or Sermon Concerning Prayer,” Second Book of Homilies (1571).

“Most fond and foolish is the opinion of some people who think all prayer is superfluous and useless because God ‘searches the heart and reins’ and knows the meaning of the Spirit before we ask.  For if this fleshly and carnal reason were enough to annul prayer, then why did our Savior Christ so often cry to his disciples: ‘Watch and pray’?  Why did he prescribe them a form of prayer, saying: ‘When you pray, pray after this sort: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, etc.,’? Why did he pray so often and so earnestly himself before his passion?  Finally, why did the apostles, immediately after his ascension, gather themselves together into one place and there continue a long time in prayer?  Either they must condemn Christ and his apostles of extreme folly or else they must admit that prayer is a thing most necessary for all men at all times and in all places.  Sure it is that there is nothing more expedient or needful for mankind in all the world than prayer.”

The two Books of Homilies (1547 & 1571) were written to teach the reformed doctrine of the Church of England in local congregations, and were originally appointed to be read out during worship by parish priests, few of whom originally had licenses to preach. The Second Book of Homilies was mostly the work of Bishop John Jewel of Salisbury (1522-1571), a noted polemical theologian, who wrote the first major defense of the Church of England’s structure and worship. 


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