Friday, March 19, 2010

Extemporary Prayer

The following is from the journal of John Wesley.
A gentleman came to me full of good-will, to exhort me not to leave the Church; or (which was the same thing in his account) to use extemporary prayer, which, said he, “I will prove to a demonstration to be no prayer at all. For you cannot do two things at once. But thinking how to pray and praying are two things. Ergo, you cannot both think and pray at once.” Now, may it not be proved by the salf-same [sic] demonstration that praying by a form is no prayer at all? E.g. You cannot do two things at once. But reading and praying are two things. Ergo, you cannot both read and pray at once.” Q.E.D. [Entry on November 28, 1740]


  1. I kind of got lost on that one, brother. Wesley was a much smarter man than I'll ever be :-)

  2. Ha ha. The Anglican official was saying that making up prayer on the spot (rather than reading from a prepared or traditional prayer) wasn't real prayer because you had to do two things at once. Wesley pointed out that even traditional prayer requires two things at once.

    For the record, Wesley wasn't against traditional or prepared prayer. He was probably one of the first ones to come up with a "sinner's prayer," known as the Covenant Prayer (which I personally prefer over the sinner's prayer).