Fount of Heaven: Prayers of the Early Church

Editor: Robert Elmer

Publisher: Lexham Press

Year: 2023

Over the last decade, we have witnessed a resurgence in the republication of historic Christian literature. Among such gems was Elmer’s Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans. Truly, the 21st century is a special time for Christians to be alive.

Thanks to Lexham Press, Elmer has published another gem: Fount of Heaven: Prayers of the Early Church. On an aesthetic level, this hardback is beautifully bound with embedded gold print on a green backdrop. On a spiritual level, this book offers nourishment and edification for believers of all ages through the cries of Christians in the early church.

The editor, Robert Elmer, shares his goal for this book in the introduction:

…this collection of prayers seeks to open a window into the souls of the first generations of believers — real people whose hearts beat with praise in the face of trouble and persecution. As we share in their prayers, we discover new depth for our own. So let’s consider for a moment the world in which these early believers found themselves (p. 1).

This is wise counsel given the evangelical tendency to dismiss written prayers as outdated and traditionalistic. Far from this, Fount of Heavenserves as a window into the hearts of believers who lived in the days of the early church. As we meditate on their prayers, we realise that their struggles, tribulations, temptations and snares are the same as those we face today.

Though technology has advanced over the last two thousand years, the human heart remains stubbornly the same. But more than this, we realise that the God we worship is the same God the believers in the early church cried out to in the name of Jesus Christ.

One of my favourite prayers was written by John Chrysostom (345-407 A.D.) entitled ‘Equip us to Fight the Enemy.’ He writes:

Do not let us avoid the reading of the divine Scriptures, Lord. For that would be of Satan’s devising — not wanting us to see the treasure, otherwise we would gain the riches. So he would say that hearing the divine laws means nothing. Otherwise, if we did, we might become doers of the word, as well as hearers (p. 258).

The prayers span from the time of Adæus and Maris (200 A.D.) to Venantius (530-609 A.D.), a significant period of church history. Elmer helpfully includes a brief biography for each figure placing them in their historic context (pp. 313-342). Many of the prayers were written in times when schisms, heresies, and pastoral concerns plagued the hearts of believers not dissimilar to those we face today. Reading these prayers makes clear that believers got through such trials not by mindless spiritualism, but a rich understanding of the God they worshipped, and the gospel of their salvation.

I suspect this book will be of particular benefit to those who are struggling in their prayer life and need encouragement. By reading and contemplating these prayers, believers are led to see that we are not alone in our trials. Even more importantly, we see that God has never failed to deliver his people from distress. In being reminded of this, we are spurred on to bring our prayers to God with renewed vigour.

Fount of Heaven: Prayers of the Early Churchis a timely reminder that when God’s glory is the focus of our hearts, everything else falls into place. Prayers are collected into sections, including, but not limited to, 1) the attributes of God, 2) the persons of the Trinity, 3) supplications for the church, and 4) prayers for advent. This makes it a particularly useful resource for those who lead congregational or family worship.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, Fount of Heaven: Prayers of the Early Churchreminds us of our heritage by means of the prayers of those who walked with Jesus before us. This compendium reminded me that we have inherited the riches of the gospel as a result of saints God chose to use in the early church. In dwelling on their prayers, we are drawn to see how our God has been faithful in answering the petitions of his saints since the birth of Christ’s church.

– James Jeffery