Secret prayer

For the last few months, I’ve been re-reading Charles Hambrick-Stowe’s History book on Puritan devotions, The Practice of Piety. I ran across this quote-ridden paragraph today:

Regular secret prayer was not only a means of grace but also the primary and most necessary means. New Englanders continually pointed to the dire consequences of the neglect of prayer, making much of the failure, suicide, or criminal conviction of those who “never used Secret Prayer” and “frequently omitted Family Prayer too.” Thomas Shepard said that the voice of the Lord “singles a man out” and is heard by a divine and newly created “internal spirit of prayer.” The other means of grace, both public and private, were preliminary to the awakening of this ability to pray in faith. “Is it not the end of Preaching, that you may learn to pray?” John Cotton demanded. True prayer required faith, so that “a man must not fetch his prayer from his parts, as will, memory, understanding, or ability, but from the Spirit, who is the prayer-maker.” In fact, the English Puritan John Preston defined prayer as “the voice of God’s own Spirit, that is, such as arise from the regenerate part which is within us, which is quickened and enlarged to pray from the immediate help of the Holy Ghost.”

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