This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series: ‘Theology of Prayer’ (Palmer)
I was on holiday in Lochgilphead, Scotland, in May 1981, and called in to the Christian Bookshop to have a browse. A book caught my eye which I had never heard of, and yet I knew just from the title that I must buy it and read it.
That book was Theology of Prayer, by B.M Palmer (1818-1902). I was not disappointed with my purchase. It has remained a special favourite of mine. Most books on prayer are either a bit vague, or too pragmatic, to give the reader much insight into the theology of prayer. But this one combines theological acumen, pastoral wisdom, and unusual elegance as it unfolds its wonderful subject.
I’m very pleased to say that the entire book is available here, in pdf format. [Unfortunately, this link is currently dead, and I haven’t been able to find an alternative workng link]
Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:-
Prayer ‘is the appeal of creaturely dependence; it is the wail of a sinner’s guilt; it is articulate worship of an intelligent soul. Under the first, God is regarded in his natural relation as the creator and preserver of all his creatures. Under the second, he is contemplated in his gracious relation as the Redeemer and Saviour of sinners. Under the third, he is adored in his consummate holiness and glory.’
‘Man’s mental and moral structure adapts him to this majestic function. His reason, which can hold discourse with God; his heart, which glows with the ardour of a seraph; …his memory and hope, which bind together the past and the future like two vast continents; his instinct of ambition and longing for immortality, which turn wearily away from sensual rewards to the prizes of eternity; the conscience, which sits upon its hidden throne, the arbiter of right; the depths of reverence and awe within him resounding with the echoes of the spiritual and divine: all these make him a worshiper.’
To this end man was invested with “dominion over the works of God’s hands”, that, as the priest of nature, he might walk through the aisles of her vast cathedral, and lead the whole choir of earth in chants of thanksgiving and joy. It is his office to gather the inarticulate praises of this dumb world into his censer, investing them with his own intelligence and thought, and lighting them at the fire of his own devotion; and then, as the voice of nature, to pour forth the flood of praise forever upon him who has created all for his own glory.
Many a prayer does not form itself into speech at all. The real prayer lies back of the utterance in the thought, in the desire, in the constant and quiet attitude of the spirit towards God.
‘In the recorded prayers of the Bible, it is remarkable to what extent the invocation is an index to the subject of the petition. This is by no means incidental. When the heart is burdened with desire for any good, the mind instinctively casts about to discover in the character of relations of God that which will justify the request. This, as being foremost in thought and that by which the worshipper is assured, is thrown forward to break the way into prayer. It will thus be embodied in the title by which the Divine Being is invoked, and becomes a condensation of the appeal which follows.. When Paul would pray for the peace of the church at Thessalonica, he addresses himself thus: “Now the Lord of all peace himself give you peace always by all means.” (2 Thess 3:16). When he would pray on behalf of the church at Rome for the grace of hope, the invocation and petition perfectly co-incide: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Rom 15:13).’
‘If it be asked, Wherein consists the secret power of true prayer? the answer will be, In the perfect blending of our desires with the petitions issuing from the lips of our Advocate on high.’