Winston Churchill called him “the greatest Englishman ever.” He was one of only two English kings awarded the designation “The Great” for extraordinary leadership. He’s remembered as the monarch who saved England from Viking invasion, united Saxony (forerunner to modern England) and preserved English as a written language. Alfred (848-899) was a king who lived by the principle, “I embrace the purpose of God.” Alfred carried around with him a notebook of Psalms and written prayers. One observer said, “He carried it around with him every hour for the sake of prayer.” He introduced the legendary English Law Code by listing the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 and following it with various civil laws from Exodus 21-23 to reinforce the commands. Next, he cited Jesus’ teaching on the Ten Commandments in his Sermon on the Mount and concluded by referencing their importance to the Apostles at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). No other comparable law book gave so much credence to Biblical teaching. Alfred translated major portions of the Latin Bible into English as well as major theological works by Augustine and Gregory. Quick! Forward this post to our elected leaders! We need more politicians like Alfred. How did he manage to lead his country while caring for is peoples’ spiritual welfare? Alfred lived a highly disciplined life, allocating eight hours each day for rest and food, eight hours for prayer, reading and writing and eight hours for his job as king. He placed 24 candles in a chapel, each of which burned for one hour. A sexton would alert Alfred to the passage of time at the end of every hour. Today, we are led in prayer by none other than King Alfred:
Lord God Almighty,
shaper and ruler of all creatures,
we pray for your great mercy,
that you guide us toward you,
for we cannot find our way.
And guide us to your will, to the need of our soul,
for we cannot do it ourselves.
And make our mind steadfast in your will
and aware of our soul’s need.
Strengthen us against the temptations of the devil,
and remove from us all lust and every unrighteousness,
and shield us against our foes, seen and unseen.
Teach us to do your will,
That we may inwardly love you before all things with a pure mind.
For you are our maker and our redeemer,
our help, our comfort, our trust, our hope;
praise and glory be to you now and forever.
Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.