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John Knox's prayer in St Giles, Edinburgh (1560)


John Knox (c.1505-1572) was the leader of the Scottish Reformation. He was born near Haddington, of respectable parents, and received a broad education. As a Roman priest he began studying Fathers such as Augustine of Hippo, and he came to a saving knowledge of Christ while still in his youth. He became strongly attached to George Wishart, whose early martyrdom did not daunt him but rather stirred him to continue steadfast in the faith. After a time of preaching in the castle of St Andrews, Knox was captured by the French (1547) and used as a galley-slave until his release in 1549. He preached in England under Edward VI until the accession of 'Bloody Mary' in 1553, when he fled for his life to Europe. In Geneva he came into contact with the Frenchman John Calvin, and helped to translate the Geneva Bible. Receiving a call from Scotland he returned in 1559, where, by the grace of God, he saw the emergence of a Protestant nation. Knox's boldness and influence were unsurpassed, and he was not ashamed to speak the truth before hostile rulers. He had a great love for Jesus Christ and His infallible Word, his doctrine being warmly evangelical and imprinted with a firm knowledge that truth cannot reign safely alongside error. Today John Knox is widely known not only as a Reformer, but also for his controversial treatise "The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women", in which he opposes the woman usurping authority over the man.


[The following prayer was offered in John Knox's own congregation in Edinburgh, after the defeat of the French army, which had been sent to Scotland in a plot to reimpose the Roman Catholic religion in the land by force, and unite Scotland, England and France under the French king.]


O Eternal and Everlasting God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath not only commanded us to pray, and promised to hear us, but also willest us to magnify Thy mercies, and to glorify Thy name when Thou showest Thyself pitiful and favourable unto us, especially when Thou deliverest us from desperate dangers, – We ought not, nor can we forget, O Lord, in how miserable estate stood this poor country, and we the just inhabitants of the same, not many days past. Out of these miseries, O Lord, could neither our wit, policy, nor strength deliver us; yea, Thou didst show unto us how vain was the help of man, where Thy blessing giveth not victory.


In this our anguish, O Lord, we sobbed unto Thee; we cried for Thy help, as Thy troubled flock, persecuted for Thy truth's sake. Mercifully hast Thou heard us. Thou hast looked upon us as pitifully as if we had given unto Thee most perfect obedience; for Thou hast disappointed the counsels of the crafty; Thou hast bridled the rage of the cruel; and Thou hast of Thy mercy set this our perishing Realm at a reasonable liberty. Oh, give us hearts with reverence and fear, to meditate Thy wondrous works late wrought in our eyes. We beseech thee, O Father of Mercies, that as of Thine undeserved grace Thou hast partly removed our darkness, suppressed idolatry, and taken from above our heads the devouring sword of merciless strangers, so it would please Thee to proceed with us in this Thy grace begun. And albeit that in us there is nothing that may move Thy Majesty to show us Thy favour, – yet for Christ Jesus, Thy only well-beloved Son's sake, whose name we bear, and whose doctrine we profess, we beseech Thee never to suffer us to forsake or deny this Thy verity which now we profess.


And seeing that nothing is more odious in Thy presence, O Lord, than is ingratitude and violation of a covenant made in Thy name; and seeing that Thou hast made our confederates of England the instruments by whom we are now set at liberty, to whom we in Thy name have promised mutual faith again; let us never fall to that unkindness, O Lord, that either we declare ourselves unthankful to them or profaners of Thy holy name. Confound Thou the counsels of them that go about to break that godly league contracted in Thy name, and retain Thou us so firmly together by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, that Satan have never power to set us again at variance.


Give us Thy grace to live in that Christian charity which Thy Son, Our Lord Jesus, has so earnestly commanded to all the members of His body; so that other nations, provoked by our example, may set aside all ungodly war, contention, and strife, and study to live in tranquillity and peace, as becometh the sheep of Thy pasture, and the people that daily look for our final deliverance, by the coming again of Our Lord Jesus. To whom, with Thee, and the Holy Spirit, be all Honour, Glory, and Praise, now and ever. Amen.



John Knox, The Reformation in Scotland (pp. 225-227). Edited by C. J. Guthrie, Q.C., 1898. First Banner of Truth edition 1982.