Prayer for Success
The English Puritan pastor Philip Doddridge (1702–1751) concluded his introduction to The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul with “A Prayer for the Success of this Work.” The petition it brings is appropriately applied to any Christian work, whether it be a book, a sermon, or just our witness to our neighbors. May God grant us all the mind of Doddridge, as expressed here.
O thou great eternal Original, and Author of all created being and happiness! I adore thee, who hast made man a creature capable of religion, and host bestowed this dignity and felicity upon our nature, that it may be taught to say, “Where is God our maker? Job xxxv. 10.” I lament that degeneracy spread over the whole human race, which has “turned our glory into shame, Hos. iv. 7.” and has rendered the forgetfulness of God, unnatural as it is, so common and so universal a disease. Holy Father, We know it is thy presence, and thy teaching alone, that can reclaim thy wandering children, can impress a sense of Divine things on the heart, and render that sense lasting and effectual. From thee proceed all good purposes and desires; and this desire, above all, of diffusing wisdom, piety, and happiness in this world, which (though sunk in such deep apostacy) thine infinite mercy has not utterly forsaken.—“Thou knowest, O Lord, the hearts of the children of men; 2 Chron. vi. 30.” and an upright soul, in the midst of all the censures and suspicions it may meet with, rejoices in thine intimate knowledge of its most secret sentiments and principles of action. Thou knowest the sincerity and fervency with which thine unworthy servant desires to spread the knowledge of thy name, and the savor of thy Gospel, among all to whom this work may reach. Thou knowest that hadst thou given him an abundance of this world, it would have been, in his esteem, the noblest pleasure that abundance could have afforded to have been thine almoner in distributing thy bounties to the indigent and necessitous, and so causing the sorrowful heart to rejoice in thy goodness, dispensed through his hands. Thou knowest, that, hadst thou given him, either by ordinary or extraordinary methods, the gift of healing, it would have been his daily delight to relieve the pains, the maladies, and the infirmities of men’s bodies; to have seen the languishing countenance brightened by returning health and cheerfulness; and much more to have beheld the roving, distracted mind reduced to calmness and serenity in the exercise of its rational faculties. Yet happier, far happier will he think himself, in those humble circumstances in which thy providence hath placed him, if thou vouchsafe to honor these his feeble endeavors as the means of a relieving and enriching men’s minds; of recovering them from the madness of a sinful state, and bringing back thy reasonable creatures to the knowledge, the service, and the enjoyment of their God; or of improving those who are already reduced.
O may it have that blessed influence on the person, whosoever he be, that is now reading these lines, and all who may read or hear them! Let not my Lord be angry if I presume to ask, that, however weak and contemptible this work may seem in the eyes of the children of this world, and however imperfect it really be, as well as the author of it unworthy, it may nevertheless live before thee; and, through a divine power, be mighty to produce the rise and progress of religion in the minds of multitudes in distant places, and in generations yet to come! Impute it not, O God, as a culpable ambition, if I desire that, whatever becomes of my name, about which I would not lose one thought before thee, this work, to which I am now applying myself in thy strength, may be completed and propagated far abroad: that it may reach to those that are yet unborn, and teach them thy name and thy praise, when the author has long dwelt in the dust; that so, when he shall appear before thee in the great day of final account, his joy may be increased, and his crown brightened, by numbers before unknown to each other, and to him! But if this petition be too great to be granted to one who pretends no claim but thy sovereign grace to hope for being favored with the least, give him to be, in thine Almighty hand, the blessed instrument of converting and saving one soul; and if it be but one, and that the weakest and meanest of those who are capable of receiving this address, it shall be most thankfully accepted as a rich recompense for all the thought and labor it may cost; and though it should be amidst a thousand disappointments with respect to others, yet it shall be the subject of immortal songs of praise to thee, O blessed God, for and by every soul whom, through the blood of Jesus and the grace of thy Spirit, thou hast saved; and everlasting honors shall be ascribed to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, by the innumerable company of angels, and by the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven. Amen.
—Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 18–20.
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