Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Piety of "Stonewall" Jackson: Part Four: Man of Prayer

In Life and Campaigns, Dabney present Jackson as a consummate man of prayer, both publicly and privately.

His local church in Lexington had a midweek “concert of prayer” or prayer meeting. Dabney notes, “Jackson was, of course, from the beginning, the most punctual of attendants on these meetings” (p. 90).

Jackson did not enjoy public speaking and so was initially hesitant to pray aloud in public. After his pastor had taught the congregation on the duty of public prayer, Jackson met with him to discuss the matter. He told his minister, “You…are my pastor, and the spiritual guide of the church; if you think it is my duty, then I shall waive my reluctance, and make the effort to lead in prayer, however painful” (p. 91). Soon afterwards, the minister called upon Jackson to pray aloud in the weekly prayer meeting. Jackson stammered through the prayer with embarrassment, his petition being “almost as painful to his brethren as it obviously was to himself” (p. 91). Attempting to spare Jackson further embarrassment, the minister did not call again on him to pray publicly over the several weeks. When he told Jackson he wanted to spare him an uncomfortable duty, Jackson replied, “Yes…but my comfort or discomfort is not the question; if it is my duty to lead my brethren in prayer, then I must persevere in it, until I learn to do it aright; and I wish you to discard my feelings in the matter” (p. 92). Dabney concludes: “He was again called on; he succeeded in curbing his agitation in a good degree; and, after a time, became as eminent for the gift, as he was for the grace of prayer” (p. 92).

Later Dabney links Jackson’s prayer life with his steadfast belief in providence:

Hence it will be anticipated, that he who was so clear in his recognition of Providence was also eminently a man of prayer. This was one of the most striking traits of Jackson’s religious character. He prayed much, he had great faith in prayer, and took much delight in it. While his religion was the least obtrusive of all men’s, no one could know him and fail to be impressed with the regular habits of his private devotion….

This spirit of prayer was manifested by the change which it wrought in his whole manner. Everywhere else his speech was decided and curt; at the throne of grace all was different; his enunciation was soft and deliberate, and his tones mellow and supplicatory. His prayers were marked at once by profound reverence and filial confidence, and abounded much in ascriptions of praise and thanks, and the breathings of devout affections towards God…. (pp. 103-104).


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