The Return of Prayer: But if God gives you an answer, and you don’t want to listen…

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for dynamic thought and sense

7d0ed581-186e-42bc-ba26-3e8d3f79d2baBut if God gives you an answer, and if you don’t want to listen…

…you let God speak to you in vain, because you are not listening to what he has to tell you. If two men are walking along, and if one has spoken what’s on his mind but ignores the other man’s answers, he greatly insults the man.

Now if you want to study God’s dealings with us, do so by comparing our prayers with his answers; that is, by our speaking to God in prayer, and his speaking to us by way of answers. Why? Because  in essence, these dialogues between us and him comprise the greater part of our walk with God. It is said of Samuel’s prophecy, “that not a word of it fell to the ground,” 1 Sam.3:19; and so it may be said of our prayers; and so it ought to be of God’s answers as well; not a word of them should fall to the ground.

Now in 1 Kings, 8:56, it is said,”there hath not failed one word of all his good promises.” Solomon had observed this by painstaking survey, and by making comparisons of all which God had spoken and done for them, and he found not one promise unfulfilled.

 And so Solomon brings these exact words here for a very specific purpose: to confirm their faith in this, that no prayers would fail, if grounded on a promise. 

This was done to encourage others, and to even encourage his own heart to diligence. And it was also done as a motive for God to hear him; for in verse 59, he infers,”Let my words be nigh thee,” seeing you always thus perform your good word unto your people. Yes, if you don’t listen, you will provoke the Lord to not answer at all; he will forbear to answer, because he sees that talking to you will be in complete vain.

When a man is talking to someone that’s not listening, he will cease to talk, and completely leave off communicating, and so will God.

The Return of Prayer: Observing the Answers to Our Prayers

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

images (1)“I will hear what God the LORD will speak:
for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”

–Psalm 85:8


God’s people are diligently to observe the answers to their prayers: And herein are the reasons of why.

images (8)The observation is this: that when a man has put up prayers to God…

He is to rest assured, that God will in mercy answer his prayers; and he is to listen diligently, and observe how his prayers are answered. “I will hear what God will speak,” that is, how he will accomplish them; and withal, he confidently expresses an assurance, that “God will speak peace.” Thus does the church, “I will look to the Lord, I will wait; my God will hear me.” Mich. 7:7, 8.

The church is sure of gracious audience with him, “my God will hear me;” and she will wait till he answers her, and observe how he does it, “I will look to the Lord;” and verse 9, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, till he plead my cause.” So Habakkuk, having made a prayer against the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar, in the first chapter, having ended it, he begins the second chapter thus, “I will stand upon my watch-tower, and see what he will answer me;” and in the end an answer comes, verse 2. And as he thus waited for a vision (for sometimes their prophecies were in answer to their prayers), so should we for an answer to ours.

Because otherwise you take an ordinance of God in your hearts (Prayer), which is to take God’s name (with whom in that ordinance you deal) in vain; for it is a sign you think your prayer not an effectual means to attain the end it is ordained for; and say secretly in your hearts, as they, “What profit have we, if we pray to him?” Job 21:15. For if we use any means, and expect not the end, it is a sign we think the means not adapted to accomplish that end; whereas, every faithful prayer is ordained of God to be a means to obtain what we desire and pray for, and is not put up in “vain, but shall have answer: “This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us,” 1 John, 5:14, 15.

images (1)It is true, God hears an enemy; but to hear with favour, is the hearing there meant; and thus God’s ears are said to be open to their prayers; and so it follows there, that “If he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of him.” As soon as we have prayed, we are said to have our petitions; that is, they are then granted, and we may be confident that they are assented unto by God, although, in regard of outward dispensation the command for accomplishment is not yet come forth; even as a petitioner is said to have his suit, when the word of the king is gone forth that it shall be done, though it passes not the seal, or be not signed until a good while after. And like as when a wicked man sins, as soon as the act is committed, so soon sentence from God goes forth against the sinner, but the execution overtakes him not (it may be) until a good while after.

So no prayer, in respect of an answer to it, is in vain; but where God has given a heart to speak, he has an ear to hear, and loves to return an answer.

The Return of Prayer

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

“I will hear what God the LORD will speak:
for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”

–Psalm 85:8



This psalm was penned, in the name and for the comfort of the whole church of the Jews, both as a prophecy of -and a prayer for their return from the Babylonian captivity. It is also a prayer for the flowing in again, of that, ancient glory, peace, administration-of justice, liberty of God’s ordinance, plenty, and increase, which formerly they enjoyed but now suffered an ebb of seventy years continuance.

And first, he begins with prayer, from the first verse to this we have in hand, putting the Lord in mind of and urging him with his gracious dealings in former times unto his church: this is not the first time (says he) that the church has been in captivity, and that thou hast restored it (as out of Egypt, etc.) and therefore we hope that thou wilt do so again: “Thou hast been favorable unto thy land.”

His prayer being finished, the end having been spoken, he now stands and listens, as you do when you expect an echo, what echo he should have, what answer would be returned from heaven, whither his prayer had already come; “I will hear what the Lord will speak;” or, as some read it, “I hear what the Lord doth speak;” for sometimes there is a present echo, a speedy answer returned to a man’s heart, even before the prayer is half-finished, as unto Daniel, Dan. 9:20, 21.

And in brief, the answer to his prayer is this, “The Lord will speak peace unto his people;” this answer he finds written at the bottom of the petition, but with this clause of admonition for the time to come is added, “but let them not return again to folly;” a good use is to be made of so gracious an answer.


Meet Thomas Goodwin, a pastor and theologian and part of your Christian heritage:  Thomas Goodwin (October 1600 –1680), known as ‘the Elder’, was an English Puritan theologian and preacher, and an important leader of religious Independents. He served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and was imposed by Parliament as President of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1650. Goodwin is seen to be in the ‘main stream of Puritan thought’.  He studied at Cambridge from August 1613, and was an undergraduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in 1616.

In 1619 he removed to Catharine Hall, where in 1620 he was elected fellow. At this time he was influenced by John Rogers of Dedham. Goodwin rode 35 miles from Cambridge to Dedham to hear this Puritan preacher. In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, successor to John Preston, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632. n 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Independent party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as the “dissenting brethren” and was one of the authors of An Apologetical  Narration. He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration of 1660. He was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell from 1656. He rose into high favor with the Protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed. He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658. From 1660 until his death, he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.

Meet John Rogers, a passionate pastor for Christ, as well as part of your Christian heritage:  John Rogers (c. 1570–1636), sometimes referred to as “Roaring” John Rogers, for his fiery preaching style, was a well-known English Puritan clergyman and preacher. His parents were John Rogers (died 1601), a shoemaker from Moulsham in Essex, and his wife, Mary (died 1579). Richard Rogers, his uncle, provided for his education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he seems to have graduated in 1591/2. In 1592 he became vicar of Honingham, Norfolk, and in 1603 he succeeded Lawrence Fairclough, father of Samuel Fairclough, as vicar of Haverhill, Suffolk.

In 1605 he became lecturer, not vicar as some scholars believe, of Dedham, Essex, where for over thirty years he had the repute of being “one of the most awakening preachers of the age.” The vicars and lecturers are listed inside the church by the north door. On his lecture days his church overflowed. On one occasion, according to John Howe based on a report by Thomas Goodwin, Rogers rebuked the congregation for their woeful neglect of the Bible. His eloquence, some would say anointed preaching, moved many to tears and loud weeping. On market days he preached to hundreds of people from the tower by the muniment room above the north porch. This muniment room holds some early editions of his works. Cotton Mather reports a saying of Ralph Brownrig that Rogers would “do more good with his wild notes than we with our set music.” His lecture was suppressed from 1629 till 1631, on the ground of his nonconformity. His subsequent compliance was not strict. Giles Firmin, one of his converts, never saw him wear a surplice, and he only occasionally used the prayer-book, and then repeated portions of it from memory.

He died on 18 October 1636, and was buried in the churchyard at Dedham. There is a tombstone to his memory, and also a mural monument in the church on the north wall of the sanctuary. His funeral sermon was preached by John Knowles. His engraved portrait exhibits a worn face, and depicts him in nightcap, ruff, and full beard.

Character excerpts from Wikipedia


The Faith and Strength of Prayer…

Taken from, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, The Return of Prayers, p. 400
Written by Thomas Goodwin
Edited for thought and sense.

imagesRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.         

                                                                                                        –Philippians 4:4-7, ESV

Men are mistaken in judging of the weakness of their prayers…

…They judge of the weakness of their prayers by their expressions, and gifts in performing them, or by the stirring and overflow of affections; whereas the strength and vigor of prayer should be estimated from the faith, the sincerity, the obedience, the desires expressed in it. As it is not the loudness of a preacher’s voice, but the weight and holiness of the matter, and spirit of the preacher, that move a wise and an intelligent hearer; so not gifts, but graces in prayers are they that move the Lord. The strength of prayer lies not in words, but in that which it is fitted to prevail with God. One prayer is not more strong than another, except in how it is so framed, it hath power with God more or less; as of Jacob it is said, ‘He had power with God,’ Hosea 12. 

Now prayers move God, not as an orator moves his hearers, but as a child moves his father.

Two words of a child humbled, and crying at his father’s feet, will prevail more than penned orations, Rom. 8: it is the meaning of the spirit that God looks unto, more than the expression; for the groans there are said to be unutterable. Hezekiah’s expressions were so rude and broken, that he says, Isa. 38:14, that he did but ‘chatter,’he being then sick, even as a crane;’ yet God heard them.

Do you need comfort as well as pardon? Consider Well the Name of God!

Written by Thomas Goodwin.
Taken from, “A Child of Light Walking in Darkness”

nameThe Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” –Exodus 34:5-7, ESV

The name of God, that is, God’s attributes and Christ’s righteousness…

…do sufficiently and adequately and fully answer all wants and doubts, all objections and distresses we can have, or can be in.  Whatsoever our want or temptations may be, he has a name to make supply.  For example, take the attributes as mentioned Exodus. 34: 5-6.  Consider every attribute ascribed to his name, and every one of them answers to some temptation we experience.  Are you in misery and great distress?  He is merciful; ‘The Lord merciful.’  The Lord, therefore is able to help you; and merciful, therefore willing.  Yes, but you will say, I am unworthy; I have nothing in me to move him to mercy.  Well, therefore, he is gracious; now grace is to show mercy freely.  Yes, but I have sinned against him long, for many years; if I had come in when I was young, mercy might have been shown to me.  To this he says, ‘I am long-suffering.’  Yes, but my sins abound in number, and it is impossible to account for them and they abound in heinousness; I have committed the same sins again and again; I have been false to him, broke promise with him again and again.  His name also answers this objection, he is abundant in goodness; he abounds more in grace than you do in sinning. 

Though you have been unfaithful again and again to him, and broke all covenants, yet he is abundant in truth; also better than his word, for he cannot to our capacities express all the mercy that is in him for us.  Yes, but I have committed great sins, aggravated with many and great circumstances, against knowledge, willfully, etc.  He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; sins of all sorts.  Yes, but there is mercy thus in him but for a few and I may be none of that number.  Yes, there is mercy for thousands.  And he keeps it; the treasures of it are with him, and are kept, if men would come and take them.  Object to what you can but his name will answer you. 

Do you need comfort as well as pardon? 

He is both ‘Father of mercies ‘ and ‘God of all comforts’; that is his name, 2 Corinthians 1:3.   Do you need peace of conscience, being filled with terrors?  He is the ‘God of peace,’ 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  Yes, but I have a heart empty of grace and holiness, and full of corruptions.  He is the    ‘God of all grace’ to heal you, as well as of peace to pardon you.  Do you need wisdom and direction?  He is the ‘Father of lights,’ as the Apostle says.  Is your heart inconsistent and full of double-mindedness?  He’s ‘unchangeable’ also, as he speaks of in  James 1:17.  Thus all objections that can be made may be answered out of his name.  Therefore, it is all-sufficient for faith to rest upon.