Of the Laws of
Ecclesiastical Polity

by Richard Hooker

[Of Prayer]

      Between the throne of God in heaven and his Church upon earth here militant if it be so that Angels have their continual intercourse, where should we find the same more verified than in these two ghostly exercises, the one Doctrine, and the other Prayer? For what is the assembling of the church to learn, but the receiving of Angels descended from above? What to pray, but the sending of Angels upward? His heavenly inspirations and our holy desires are as so many Angels of intercourse and commerce between God and us. As teaching bringeth us to know that God is our supreme truth; so prayer testifieth that we acknowledge him our sovereign good.
      Besides, sith on God as the most high all inferior causes in the world are dependent; and the higher any cause is, the more it coveteth to impart virtue unto all things beneath it; how should any kind of service we do or can do find greater acceptance than prayer, which sheweth our concurrence with him in desiring that wherewith his very nature doth most delight?
      Is not the name of prayer usual to signify even all the service that ever we do unto God? And that for no other cause, as I suppose, but to shew that there is in religion no acceptable duty which devout invocation of the name of God doth not either presuppose or infer. Prayers are those 'calves of men's lips' [Hosea 14:2], those most gracious and sweet odours; those rich presents and gifts, which being carried up to heaven do best testify our dutiful affection, and are for the purchasing of all favour at the hands of God the most undoubted means we can use.
      On others what more easily, and yet what more fruitfully bestowed than our prayers? If we give counsel, they are the simpler only that need it; if alms, the poor only are relieved; but by prayer we do good to all. And whereas every other duty besides is but to shew itself as time and opportunity require, for this all times are convenient: when we are not able to do any other thing for men's behoof, when through maliciousness or unkindness they vouchsafe not to accept any other good at our hands, prayer is that which we always have in our power to bestow, and they never in theirs to refuse. Wherefore 'God forbid,' saith Samuel, speaking unto a most unthankful people, a people weary of the benefit of his most virtuous government over them, 'God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, and cease to pray for you.' It is the first thing wherewith a righteous life beginneth, and the last wherewith it doth end.
      The knowledge is small which we have on earth concerning things that are done in heaven. Notwithstanding thus much we know even of Saints in heaven, that they pray. And therefore prayer being a work common to the church as well triumphant as militant, a work common unto men with Angels, what should we think that but that so much of our lives is celestial and divine as we spend in the exercise of prayer? For which cause we see that the most comfortable visitations, which God hath sent men from above, have taken especially the times of prayer a their most natural opportunities. (5.23)


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