The Holy Spirit and Prayer in John Bunyan -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 03:2 (Spring 1994)
Article: The Holy Spirit and Prayer in John Bunyan
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin


The Holy Spirit and Prayer in John Bunyan

Michael A. G. Haykin

In the edition of John Newton’s works which Richard Cecil supervised for the press, Cecil includes a number of pages of Newton’s “table-talk,” occasional remarks made by Newton in the course of everyday conversation. 1 Among them is the following reflection on the ways of God with His servants:

The Lord has reasons, far beyond our ken, for opening a wide door, while he stops the mouth of a useful preacher. John Bunyan would not have done half the good he did had he remained preaching in Bedford, instead of being shut up in a Bedford prison. 2

What Newton probably has in mind are the two evangelical classics which came from Bunyan’s pen as a result of this imprisonment from 1660 to 1672, namely, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678 and 1684). Down through the centuries the vision contained within these two books has nourished believers and encouraged them in their pilgrimage. For instance, during the eighteenth century and the Evangelical Revival which dominated that period of time, these two books of Bunyan were read with great spiritual relish. As N.H. Keeble notes:

Leaders of the Evangelical Revival and of Methodism were inspired by him (i.e., Bunyan), returned to him often, and recommended him constantly. Howel Harris was a devoted reader. George Whitefield contributed a preface to the third edition of The Works of John Bunyan (1767). John Wesley more than once read through The Pilgrim’s Progress (and other Bunyan titles) on horseback, and himself abridged it in 1743.... Methodist preachers made frequent reference to Bunyan, who exerted a formative influence on their own autobiographies. 3

There were, however, other works written by Bunyan during his time of imprisonment, and though now not so well known, they are still deserving of consideration. One of

the earliest of these works is I Will Pray With the Spirit, written around 1662. 4 It is a powerful plea to the religious authorities of his day to recognize the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in the prayer life of the believer in the worship of the church. In what follows, the historical context of Bunyan’s treatise on prayer is outlined, along with the course of its argumentation and its abiding significance.

The Historical Context of I Will Pray With the Spirit

The immediate ...

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