Sunday, April 27, 2008

America Must Pray - Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards would be one of most influential spiritual revivalists of the 1730s and 1740s in what would be known as The Great Awakening. The colonies had fallen into spiritual lethargy with many of the citizens who were not born again. Edwards would be known in American church history as an outstanding philosopher, a cutting-edge theologian, and one who continually challenged and cajoled spiritually young seminarians and intellectuals. Edwards had been a missionary to the native Indians, was a pastor of the First Christian Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, but later became the president of what would be called Princeton College of New Jersey. He was president only three months before dying of a failed small pox vaccination.

By the age of seven Edwards used to pray five times a day in secret, and spent much time in "converting" other boys to the Lord. He also spent a lot of time meeting with them in prayer. By his early teens he had lost sight of the efficacy of prayer and the importance of righteous living, claiming to have "returned like a dog to his vomit, and went on in the ways of sin." However at the age of twelve he entered Yale College and later regained his faith after being struck by pleurisy months before his graduation.

The Great Awakening forced Americans to reconsider their spiritual convictions, recognizing that prayers must never be involved as "heat without light." Through Edwards the roots of modern Evangelicalism in America took hold.

Edwards’ writings shaped the thinking of the colonists. He wrote such works as Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer. And he wrote a chilling sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Although his contribution to Puritan religious life centered on the composition of sermons rather than prayer, Edwards spoke of prayer continually. In 1747 he wrote a guide to prayer entitled (abridged): God’s People throughout the World in Extraordinary Prayer for Revival.

Edwards said: "There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God and advance the Kingdom of Christ as by prayer." His works were read not only in America but also in England and Scotland. In his book An Humble Attempt, he begged Christians to accept the reality of the Second Coming of Christ and to prepare for it through prayer. He promoted a massive prayer chain, a blueprint, which extended on both sides of the Atlantic. He called it a "Concert of Prayer." He urged the colonies and the British Isles to commit themselves, by international agreement if possible, to use prayer as "the engagement of the heart" as a means to stir spiritual passions.