Jeremy Taylor was a highly regarded preacher, teacher, and counselor in 17th century England. He believed that life could be holy in every respect. His Rule and Exercises of Holy Living (1650) accentuates this fact; it is a plea to seek righteousness in every area of living. Following are excerpts from his practice of prayer. There are valuable for both personal and group reflection.
1. We must be careful, that we never ask anything of God that is sinful: for that is to ask of God to dishonor himself. Let us principally ask of God power and assistances to do our duty, to glorify God, to do good works, to live a good life, to die in the fear and favor of God, and eternal life.
2. We may lawfully pray to God for the gifts of the Spirit, such as preaching, good expression, a ready and unloosed tongue, good understanding, and learning, with these restraints:
That we cannot be so confident of the event of those prayers as of the former.
That we must be curious to secure our intention in these desires, that we may not ask them to serve our own ends, but only for God's glory.
We must submit to God's will, desiring him to choose our employment, and to furnish our persons as he shall see expedient.
3. Whatsoever we may lawfully desire of temporal things, we may lawfully ask of God in prayer, and we may expect them, as they are promised in Holy Scripture.
4. He that would pray with effect, must live with care and piety. For although God gives to sinners and evil persons the common blessings of life and chance; yet they by contradicting some necessary ingredient in prayer, (such as mercy, humility, purity, and sincerity) do defile the prayer, and make it a direct sin.
5. All prayer must be made with faith and hope.
6. Our prayers must be fervent, intense, earnest, and importunate, when we pray for things of high concernment and necessity. In other things, we are to use a bridle: and, as we must limit our desires with submission to God's will, so also we must limit the importunity of our prayers, by the moderation and term of our desires. Pray for it as earnestly as you should desire it.
7. Our good desires must be lasting, and our prayers frequent, assiduous, and continual; not asking for a blessing once, and then leaving it; but daily renewing our suits.
8. Let the words of our prayers be pertinent, grave, material, not studiously many. God hears us not the sooner for our many words, but much the sooner for an earnest desire.
9. In all forms of prayer, mingle petition with thanksgiving.
10. Whatever we beg of God, let us also work for it. For God loves to bless labor and to reward it, but not to support idleness. Read Scriptures; and then pray to God for understanding. Pray against temptation: but you must also resist the devil. Ask of God competency of living: but you must also work with your hands the things that are honest.
11. To this purpose let every man study his prayers, and read his duty in his petitions. For the body of our prayer is the sum of our duty.
12. In all prayers, we must be careful to attend our present work, not wandering upon impertinent things. Strive to obtain a diligent, sober, untroubled, and composed spirit.
13. Let your posture and gesture of body in prayers be reverent, grave, and humble. Stand or kneel, or lie flat upon the ground on your face, in your ordinary and more solemn prayers; but in extraordinary prayers, the reverence and devotion of the soul, and the lifting up of the eyes and hands to God with any other posture not indecent, is usual and commendable. For we may pray in bed, on horseback, everywhere, and at all times, and in all circumstances.