Prayer Among Dutch Mennonites

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The martyrbooks such as the Offer des Heeren and T. J. van Braght's Mar­tyrs' Mirror emphasize that it was prayer that strengthened the Anabaptists in prison, gave them the power to endure trials and torture; and that with prayer on their lips they faced execution. If the executioner permitted them to do so, they knelt on the scaffold or near the stake and prayed. The old martyr literature gives striking testimony to their fervent prayers. Though there is little in­formation, it may be assumed that in their early secret meetings the Anabaptists and Mennonites not only read and explained the Scriptures, but also prayed. Of an Anabaptist meeting at Maastricht in 1534 and of one in Amsterdam about the same time it is expressly said that "they knelt down to send up their prayers to the Almighty God."

Later on, after conditions had improved and re­ligious life had become settled, prayer became a reg­ular element of the worship service. They then used to pray twice in a service. Prayer was then al­ways silent (stil gebed): the preacher admonished his hearers to pray and thereupon all knelt down and silently offered their individual prayers. The conservative groups, like some Old Flemish and the Janjacobsgezinden, maintained this practice of silent prayer until the end of the 18th century; on the island of Ameland it continued until 1809, in Balk until 1853, in Giethoorn until 1865, in Aalsmeer un­til 1866. The Waterlanders, under the influ­ence of their elder Hans de Ries, had by 1590 abolished the practice of silent prayer, introducing the audible prayer (then called stemmelijk gebed) by the minister, as was the practice in other Prot­estant churches. The Flemish and Frisian Men­nonites adopted audible prayer shortly after 1640. With the abolition of silent prayer, the practice of kneeling for prayer was also dropped. For some time, in a few country churches in Friesland until recently, the men in the congregation sometimes arose for prayer, as is often done in Reformed churches. In some congregations the change to audible prayer led to discord, as for example in Grouw, where the magistrate had to settle the quarrel.

After about 1665 both the Lamists and the Zonists adopted the practice of prayer at wor­ship services similar to the present Mennonite prac­tice; that is, the service is opened with a vatum and closed with a benediction. Besides these two prayers, which are short, there are two longer prayers, one before the sermon and one after. This practice un­doubtedly was taken over from the Reformed Church liturgy.

It is probable that after audible prayer had been adopted, the Lord's Prayer was rarely used, the min­ister composing his own "free prayer." At present the Lord's Prayer is very often used, perhaps nearly always used, either before or after the sermon.

Family worship has never been very popular among the Dutch Mennonites, though it has been held occasionally. Formerly it was customary to offer prayer, usually silent, before and after meals; in many Mennonite families this is still the practice.

There are no special Dutch Mennonite prayer books. In the early days sometimes a few prayers were added to hymnals, to confessions, to collections of sermons, or to devotional books.


Backer, J. de.  Kort onderwijs van de christelyhe ge-beden. Amsterdam, 1707.

Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland, 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: v II, 143.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1863): 147 f.; (1864): 2; (1877): 81; (1890): 6; (1891): 46; (1892): 57.

Knipscheer, F. S. "Geschiedenis van het stil en stemmelijk gebed bij de Doopsgezinden," Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1897): 77-120; (1898): 55-77.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland: Gemeentelijk Leven 1650-1735. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1950: v. III, 26 f.

Pasma, F. H. De Doopsgezinden te Grouw. Grouw, 1930: 9 f.

Rues, S. F. Tegenwoordige Staet der Doopsgezinden. Amsterdam, 1745: 42 f.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. I, Nos. 611, 712 f.

Zijpp, N. van der. Geschiedenis der Doopsge­zinden in Nederland. Arnhem, 1952: 110 f.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Prayer Among Dutch Mennonites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 18 May 2022.

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Prayer Among Dutch Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 210-211. All rights reserved.

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