My Prayer for My Coming Book

With my newest book in its first press run — advance reading copies for those who will endorse and/or review it — I’ve found this prayer by Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), in the first chapter of his classic study The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, to express my heart as well as anything I’ve seen.

Doddridge’s language is archaic, but I make no apology for that (though I’ve added paragraph breaks for modern-era screen-based readability). His thoughts themselves may seem archaic, as he humbles himself so deeply before his Lord. I only pray that I could may share that same humility. I am in fact humbled to know how far I am from completely knowing the truths Doddridge prays here.

Yet I pray as he prays: That this book might relieve and enrich the minds of men and women, that it would help recover some from their sinful state so they may serve our Lord, that it might reach multitudes far and near for a long time to come, and that God would grant me contentment if it reaches but one person to the very depths of his or her soul.

And the book is about … but no, that’s for another article. (You won’t find it by reading the current back cover’s lorem ipsum, either.) This blog post is for the purpose of expressing a prayer.

Would you pray this with me, please? And if the language slows you down, I suggest you consider viewing that as a good thing sometimes, for the sake of prayer. Thank you.

“Thou knowest, O Lord, the hearts of the children of men;” (2 Chron. 6:30) 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 wilt 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 or 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.