1. Preliminary Remarks
Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER X. Of the Prayers and Psalmody of the Church
1. Preliminary Remarks
Pythagoras is said to have recommended that prayer should be audibly expressed, to guard the suppliant from praying for those things which are not agreeable to the will of God. It was also a common sentiment of the Jews, that prayer was of no avail unless expressed aloud in words. Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that prayer may arise acceptably from the heart, though no speech or language give it utterance. It looks wholly to the spirit of the suppliant, and is in its nature opposed to prescribed forms and ceremonies. John 4:24. Jude 5:20. Christ and his apostles taught, both by precept a'nd example, the duty of prayer. And the primitive Christians, in all their assemblies, sought to excite and quicken their devotional sentiments by singing and prayer. Several examples of prayer by Jesus and his disciples are recorded, viz. Acts 1:24, 4:24–31, 9:40, 12:5, 20:36, etc. And it is worthy of remark, that, with the exception of certain forms, such as Amen, Grace be unto you, etc., no instance occurs of the repetition of the same prayer. This circumstance forbids the idea of any prescribed , forms of prayer. Even our Lord's prayer is recorded with essential variations by the evangelists Matthew (6:9–13) and Luke (11:1–4). Hence the inference, that the prayer is of a general character, expressing rather the subject than the form of our petitions to God.
And yet the prayers and salutations in the writings of the New Testament are the basis of all the forms which were observed by the ancient church. At the same time, it is equally evident that the church drew largely from the Old Testament, and freely adapted to their own use the doxologies, psalms, and hymns of the pious Israelites. Besides these, there are a multitude of phrases and forms of expression in the rituals which have no counterpart in the Scriptures.
Commentators generally agree that the passage 1 Tim. 2, is given to explain the proper subjects of public prayer. And the design and connection of this epistle favor this supposition. So Tertullian evidently understood it.
The psalms and hymns, of which mention is made in the ancient church, are evidently none else than prayers mingled with ascriptions of praise to God for his goodness, designed to promote and express becoming sentiments of piety. Their songs were but joyful prayers, and as such were transferred into the church from the synagogue and temple worship of the Jews. That such was the import of their sacred music, all their most ancient doxologies, collects, and psalms abundantly show. In perfect accordance with this sentiment it was customary, in the primitive church, not to read, but to chant the Lord's prayer, the gospels, the epistles, their litanies, and their confessions of faith.
It was a favorite sentiment of the fathers, that the worship of heaven would be a prolonged eternal song of praise. Praise indeed is the highest act of worship both on earth and in heaven. This was the worship of the seraphs whom Isaiah in his vision saw, (6:1–4). And the redeemed in heaven bring their sweetest odors with the new song which they sing to God and the Lamb. However prayer and praise may vary in form, they are essentially one; one spirit pervades and inspires them both.
Grotiiis, ndnot. ad Rom. c. 8: 26.
Com)). Rosenmiiller. Heiurichs, Wegscbeider, Hydenreich's Pastoralbriefen Pauli. Th. i. S. 116.
Gregor. Nazianz. oqol na/VfifQslg edit. Hoeschel. v. 142: Cfarysost. Homil. 9. in ep. ad Coloss.
(No tag #4 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)