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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Remembering Jonathan Edwards

Today is the birthday of Jonathan Edwards, often referred to as America's greatest theologian, and one of the greatest leaders of the Great Awakening of the 1740's. Born in Connecticut (the East Windsor Hill section of what is now South Windsor) in 1703, Edwards was a prodigious writer as well as an anointed preacher.

His most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, left hearers gripping the pews in terror for fear they should slip into Hell itself.

Edwards is also renowned for his famous tract on prayer and revival called A Humble Attempt. In this piece he sought to summon the Church throughout the world to concentrated intercession for a revival that would do no less than accomplish the final conversion of the heathen and usher in the Kingdom of God. The longer title of A Humble Attempt reveals Edwards's thinking:

A Humble Attempt to Promote the Agreement and Union of God's People Throughout the World in Extraordinary Prayer For a Revival Of Religion And The Advancement Of God's Kingdom On Earth, According To Scriptural Promises And Prophecies Of The Last Time.

United prayer would be the key to an outpouring of the Spirit. Edwards gave an example of how intercessory prayer had recently been used to accelerate the work of God - and I would not doubt that the "concert of prayer" he referred to greatly helped to advance the Gospel throughout the English-speaking nations of the world:

In October of 1744, a number of ministers in Scotland, considering the state of God's Church, and mankind in general, believed that God was calling those concerned for the welfare of the Church to unite in extraordinary prayer. They knew God was the Creator and source of all blessings and benefits in the Church so they earnestly prayed that He would appear in His glory, and strengthen the Church, and manifest His compassion to the world of mankind by an abundant outpouring of His Holy Spirit. They desired a true revival in all parts of Christendom, and to see nations delivered from their great and many calamities, and to bless them with the unspeakable benefits of the Kingdom of our glorious Redeemer, and to fill the whole earth with His glory.

These ministers consulted with one another on this subject and concluded that they were obliged to begin such prayer and attempt to persuade others to do the same. After seeking God for direction, they determined that for the next two years they would set apart some time on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings every week for prayer as one's other duties would allow. More importantly, it was decided that the first Tuesday of each quarter (beginning with the first Tuesday of November) would be time to be spent in prayer. People were to pray for either the entire day or part of the day, as they found themselves disposed, or as circumstances allowed. They would meet in either private prayer groups or in public meetings, whichever was found to be most convenient.

It was determined that none should make any promises or feel under strict obligation to observe every one of these days without fail; for these days were not holy or established by sacred authority. However, to prevent negligence, and the temptation to make excuses for trivial reasons, it was proposed that if those who resolve to pray cannot take part on the agreed upon day, they would use the next available day for the purpose of prayer.

The primary reason for this cooperation in prayer was to maintain, among the people of God, that necessity of prayer for the coming of Christ's Kingdom, which Christ directed his followers to do. We are, unfortunately, too little inclined to pray because of our laziness and immaturity, or because of the distraction of our own worldly, private affairs. We have prayed at times, but without special seasons for prayer, we are, likely, to neglect it either partially or totally. But when we set aside certain times for prayer, resolving to fulfill this commission unless extraordinarily hindered, we are less likely to neglect it.

We can certainly profit from this example. What would it accomplish in our day if New England - or perhaps even the entire English-speaking world - would unite in prayer once a quarter, and all ministers of Christ sowed their time into prayer for revival every week?

Let's pray that Christians will unite in prayer for a Heaven-sent revival that will once again, as Edwards said, bless the nations with the "unspeakable benefits of the Kingdom of our glorious Redeemer, and to fill the whole earth with His glory."

For more on Edwards, visit the Yale Edwards site here.

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Tim said...

Did I mention that this guy is my homeboy?

Homeboy #5

Check out theJonathan Edwards is my homeboy t-shirt

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the much needed challenge as individuals and as a corporate body.

Nick said...

For Tim:

Tim, great T-shirt. Can you make us a series of T-shirts representing famous Connecticut bloggers?

Nick said...

For Anonymous:

The days we're living in demand nothing less!