All Other Things

From “A Homily or Sermon Concerning Prayer,” Second Book of Homilies (1571)

Now when we have sufficiently prayed for things belonging to the soul, then may we lawfully and with safe conscience pray also for our bodily necessities, as food, drink, clothing, health of body, deliverance out of prison, good luck in our daily affairs and so forth, according as we shall have need. What better example can we desire than Christ himself who taught his disciples and all other Christians first to pray for heavenly things, and afterward for earthly things, as is to be seen in that prayed which he left unto his church commonly called the Lord’s prayer?

In the first Book of Kings, the third chapter, it is written that “God appeared by night in a dream to Solomon the king, saying, Ask of me whatever you will and I will you it to you.” Solomon made his humble and asked for a wise and prudent heart that might judge understand what is good and what is ill, what is godly and what is ungodly, what is righteous and what is unrighteous in the sight of the Lord. “It pleased God wondrously that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said to Solomon, “because you have requested this word and have not desired many days and long years upon the earth, neither abundance of riches and good, nor yet the life of thine enemies who hate you, but have desired wisdom to sit in judgement, behold I have done for you according to your words. I have given you a wise heart, full of knowledge and understanding, so that there has never been one like you before, neither shall there be one in time to come. Moreover, I have, beside these things, given you that which you have not asked, namely worldly health and riches, princely honor and glory, so that you shall also in these things pass all kings that ever were” (1 Kings 3:5-13).

Note in this example how Solomon, being put to his choice to ask God whatever he would, requested not vain and transitory things, but the high and heavenly treasures of wisdom, and that in so doing he obtained, as it were in recompense, both riches and honor. This gives us to understand that in our daily prayers we should chiefly and principally ask those things which concern the Kingdom of God and the salvation of our own souls, nothing doubting but all other things shall, according to the promise of Christ, be given to us. But here we must take heed that we forget not that other end, named before, the glory of God. Unless we mind and set before our eyes in making our prayers the glory of God, may not look to be heard or receive anything of the Lord….

We have this general precept from Paul, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, look that you do it to the glory of God,” 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17. This is the best of all to do, if we follow the example of our savior Christ who, praying that the bitter cup of death might pass from him, would not therein have his own will fulfilled, but referred the whole matter to the good will and pleasure of his Father.

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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