Prayer, Study, & Exercise

Another fascinating thought on prayer that Jonathan Edwards had is the intermingling of prayer and study. As he was studying, approximately 13 hours a day, he was doing so prayerfully, so that prayer and study intertwined with each other. Iain Murray, in his masterful biography of Edwards, illustrates this point well:

Edwards maintained daily set times for prayer, when it was probably his custom to speak aloud. He also had, as already noted, particular days which he set aside for solitude, meditation and fasting. But prayer was not a compartment in his daily routine, an exercise which possessed little connection with the remainder of his hours alone. Rather he sought to make his study itself a sanctuary, and whether wrestling with Scripture, preparing sermons or writing in his notebooks, he worked as a worshipper. Thought, prayer and writing were all woven together.[1]

Donald Whitney’s observation is similar: “Edwards was so devoted to prayer that it is hard to find a daily routine for him that wasn’t permeated with it…. He prayed over his studies, and he prayed as he walked in the evening. Prayer was both a discipline and a part of his leisure.”[2]

Even Edwards’ physical exercise was permeated with prayer. Many people comment that one of Edwards’ weaknesses was that he was a workaholic at the cost of his health. While this comment has an element of truth, he was not altogether neglectful of his health. In fact, in the twentieth of his Resolutions, written when he was nineteen years old, his concern pertains to his whole-being: “Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.”[3] Moreover, he himself makes a record in his Personal Narrative that he would ride out into woods for his health: “I rode out into the woods for my health…having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer.”[4] What is noteworthy here is that even his physical exercise was interfused with a spirit of prayer.


Note: This post is an excerpt from my forthcoming booklet: Jonathan Edwards: His Doctrine of and Devotion to Prayer

      [1] Ian H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburg: Banner of Truth Trust, 1996), 143 (italics mine).

      [2] Donald S. Whitney, “Pursuing A Passion For God Through Spiritual Disciples: Learning From Jonathan Edwards,” in A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, eds. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004)114.

      [3] Jonathan Edwards, “Resolutions,” in Letters and Personal Writings, ed. George S. Claghorn, vol. 16 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Harry S. Stout (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 754.

      [4] Cited in Whitney, “Pursuing A Passion For God Through Spiritual Disciples: Learning From Jonathan Edwards,” 117.



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