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