Beeke’s Book of the Month for December 2023 is Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer by Dr. Joel Beeke and Brian Najapfour. Enjoy this brief excerpt from the preface of the book that captures the vibrant Puritan spirit in prayer. (Note: All of the references in this article are properly footnoted in the full text of Taking Hold of God.)
Imagine that you have been invited into a nobleman’s castle in ancient times. As the massive doors swing open before you, an involuntary shiver runs down your spine. You step into great marble halls guarded by strong warriors. But you need not fear: you have an invitation from the lord of the castle, stamped with his personal seal of authentication.
A knight escorts you into the great hall, where the regal lord himself warmly greets you. “Would you like to see my treasury?” he asks. Soon he is leading you into the most secure portion of the castle, hemmed in by massive stone walls. He turns a large iron key and opens a door into inky darkness. For a moment, you see nothing. Then your host lights a torch on the wall, and you gasp. Before you are hundreds of gold coins in open wooden chests. Silver cups of intricate craftsmanship grace the shelves. Diamonds, rubies, and emeralds shine like stars of many colors. On a table to your left is an ancient sword once used by a great champion to win a historic battle. Here on a stand is the diary of a queen whose courage saved her nation from destruction. Hanging on the wall is a harp whose strings were once plucked by a famous musician. Your noble friend leads you from one discovery to another, pausing at each to explain its significance. You could spend hours in the treasury of this castle, so rich are its contents.
The church of Jesus Christ has such a treasury. Among its treasures preserved through the ages are the writings of the Reformers and the Puritans, which we would consider to be among the most valuable. Though sometimes forgotten like ancient gold lying in an underground vault, these writings shine with the glory of God in Christ. In this book, we invite you to enter and explore the contribution these writers made to the church’s treasury of prayer.
The chief reason we consider the writings of the Reformers and Puritans to be treasures is that they are full of biblical truth. The treasures of the church are made of the gold, silver, and precious stones of divine wisdom revealed in the Bible. In a world in bondage to ignorance, error, confusion, and deceit, here is truth from God, and Jesus taught us that this truth will set us free. The truth about Christ is that the glory of God shines in Him with life-changing power. As you read these chapters, notice how much the Reformers and Puritans meditated on the Word of God and incorporated biblical truth into their writings. No wonder their writings are treasured by people who love the Word of God.
Another reason people delight in these old Reformed writers is that their books are rich in their exploration of spiritual experience. They do not merely dissect doctrines as a scientist dissects a frog. These men reveled in Scripture as a hungry man delights in bread, butter, and honey. They did not separate the Word from the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit is the life-giver. Again and again, you will find that their books have hands that grab you and feet that carry you to places you have never been before. Biblical doctrine is eminently practical and relevant to life.
Reformed experiential writers are authors in the Reformation tradition whose writings are biblical, doctrinal, experiential, and practical. These writers were also true men of prayer, who “took hold of God” in secret and public prayer (Isa. 27:5; 56:4; 64:7). In these pages, you will see how Martin Luther led the Reformation on his knees; John Calvin called men into fellowship with God; John Knox explained biblical principles of prayer; William Perkins unfolded the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer; and Anthony Burgess encouraged prayer by pointing to Christ’s mediatorial prayer for us. You will see how John Bunyan stood against formalism in prayer by advocating praying in the Spirit, and how the Puritans rejoiced in the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer. You will be shown how Matthew Henry offered methods for continual prayer that are both biblical and practical, while Thomas Boston linked prayer to our adoption by God, and Jonathan Edwards taught prayer as an experience of the divine Trinity. All together, these men, with the Spirit’s blessing, have much to offer that can make our prayer life more informed, more extensive, more fervent, and more effectual.
So welcome to the Puritan treasury of prayer. Take time to explore the riches of wisdom and insight gathered by our Reformed and Puritan forefathers in Christ, and then avail yourself of these riches as you seek to take hold of God in the way of Christian prayer.