The returne of prayers A treatise wherein this case how to discerne Gods answers to our prayers is briefly resolved, with other observations vpon Psal. 85.8. concerning Gods speaking peace, &c. By Tho: Goodvvin. B.D.
Goodwin, Thomas, 1600-1680.


The third Case, about such prayers wherein others joine with us. How therein to discern the in∣fluence of our own prayers.

THe third Case to bee considered is, when a man prayes for some∣thing with others; or Page  73 which others likewise pray for with him, so as he is not alone in it; how then should he know, that his prayers have a hand in obtaining it, as well as theirs? For in such cases Satan is apt to object; though the thing is gran∣ted indeed; yet not for thy prayers, but for the prayers of those others joyned in it with thee.

*1. If thy heart did sym∣pathize, and accord in the same holy affections with those others in praying, then it is certaine thy voice hath helpt to carry it; If two agree on earth (sayes Christ) Matt. 18. 19. the word is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, if they harmonially a∣gree Page  74 to play the same tune: for prayers are mu∣sick in Gods eares, and so called Melody to God, Ephes. 5. 19 It is not simply their agreeing in the thing prayed for, but in the affe∣ctions: for it is the affecti∣ons that make the consort and the melody: now if the same holy affections were toucht, and struck by Gods spirit in thy heart, that in theirs, then thou doest help to make up the consort; and without thee it would have beene im∣perfect: yea, without thee the thing might not have been done; for God stands sometimes upon such a number of voices, and one voice casts it; as when he Page  75 named ten righteous per∣sons to save Sodome: when therefore the same holy motives and affections acted thee in thy prayer, which did them in theirs, it was the worke of the same spirit, both in them and thee, and God hath heard thee.

Especially if God did stir up the same secret in∣stinct in thee,* to sympa∣thize with another in praying for such a thing unbeknowne one to ano∣ther, as sometimes it falls out; then surely thy pray∣ers are in it as well as his. You shall observe some∣times a generall instinct of the Spirit, put into Gods peoples hearts, ge∣nerally Page  76 to pray for or against a thing, without each others stirring up one another: even as Eze∣kiel by the river Chebar prophecied the same things Ieremiah did at home at Ierusalem. Thus against the time that Christ the Messiah came in the flesh, there was a great expectation raised up in the hearts of the godly people, to look and pray for him, Luke 2. 27. and 38.

*2 God doth usually, & often evidence to a man, that his prayers contribu∣ted, and went among the rest towards the obtai∣ning of it; as,

1 By some circumstance: Page  77 as for example, sometimes by ordering it so, that that man that prayed most for a thing of con∣cernement, should have the first newes of it when it comes to bee accom∣plisht: which God doth, as knowing it will bee most welcome newes to him. God doth herein, as wee doe with a friend, who we know is cordiall in, and wisheth well to a busi∣nesse; hee sends him the first word of it, who was most hearty in it, & pray∣ed most about it. Good old Simeon, had surely been earnest in seeking the Lord, as wel as the rest in Ierusalem, to send the Messiah into the world, Page  78 to restore and raise up the ruines of Israel, for God did reveale to him, that hee should see him before he died: and therefore to evi∣dence to him his respect to his prayers, God carry∣ed the good old man into the Temple, just at the time when the Child was brought into the Temple, for to bee presented to the Lord, Luk. 2. 27, 28. And in like manner good Anna, who had served God with fasting and praier, night and day: God ordereth it so, that she must also come in at the same instant, Luke 2. 38. By some such like peculiar circumstance or other, doth God often use to witnesse to a mans Page  79 heart, that hee hath heard him in businesses, prayed for in common with o∣thers.

*2. By filling the heart with much joy in the ac∣complishment of what a man prayed for: which is an evident argument that his prayers did move the Lord to effect it, as well as the prayers of others. Thus that good old Sime∣on, seeing his prayers now answered, hee was even willing to die through joy; and thought he could not die in a better time, Lord now let thy servant de∣part in peace. For when the desires have vented and laid out much of themselves, then when the Page  80 return comes home, they have an answerable part and share in the comfort of it: and as desires aboun∣ded in praying, so will joy and comfort also in the accomplishment. As when a Ship comes home, not onely the chiefe owners, but every one that ventu∣red shall have a share out of the returne, in a pro∣portion to the adventure: so here, though some one whom it mainly concerns hath especiall interest in the mercy obtained, yet thou shalt have thy pray∣ers out in joy from God, that the thing is granted. S. Paul had planted a Church at Thessalonica, but hee could not stay to Page  81 water it with his owne preaching, yet when ab∣sent, hee waters those Plants which hee had set, with prayers, night and day; 1. Thes. 3. 10. Night and day praying exceedingly for you, sayes hee: and as his prayers were exceeding abundant for them, so was his joy as aboundant in them, when hee had heard that they stood stedfast, and fell not back againe; Now wee live, if yee stand fast in the Lord, ver. 8. And what thanks can we render to God for all the joy wherewith wee joy for your sakes, before the Lord? ver. 9.

*3. If God give you a heart thankfull for a bles∣sing Page  82 vouchsafed to ano∣ther, prayed for by you with others, it is another signe your prayers have some hand in it: S. Paul knew not what thankes to give for the answering of his prayers, as in that fore∣mentioned place. Old Eli had put up but one short ejaculatory petition that wee reade of, for Hannah, & that was The Lord grant thy petition, 1 Sam. 1. 17. & for the returne of that one prayer when Hannah rela∣ted how God had answe∣red her, ver. 26, 27. hee re∣turned solemne thankes, And he worshipped the Lord there. ver. 28.

*And lastly, in case the thing concerned thy self, Page  83 which was prayed for by others helping thee there∣in, what cause hast thou but to thinke that it was granted for thy owne prayers, and not for theirs onely? seeing God stirred up their hearts to pray for thee, and gave thee a heart to pray for thy selfe, and besides, gave thee the thing which thou desiredst: which argues thou art beloved aswell as they, and accepted as well as they. I know this shal turn to my salvation through your prayers, saith S. Paul, Phil. 1. 19. though their prayers went to the busi∣nesse, yet had not S. Paul beene accepted himselfe, the prayers of all the men Page  84 in the world, would have done him but little good. God may heare the pray∣ers of the godly, for wic∣ked men, when they doe not pray themselves, in temporall things; so hee did heare Moses for Pha∣raoh, Abraham for Abi∣melech; and he may heare godly men the sooner for others prayers; so hee heard Aaron and Miriam the sooner, for Moses his sake, Numb. 12. 13: But if God stirs up thy heart to pray for thy selfe, as well as others for thee; then God that gave thee a heart to pray, hath heard thy prayers also, and hath had a respect to them more in it then to theirs, Page  85 because it concerned thy selfe, as a more speciall mercy unto thee.