This article was originally published in Edition (8) of Prayer Magazine,  Oct-Dec 2006.

The plain facts are that John Hooper, the second Bishop of Gloucester, in 1555, refused to renounce his Protestant convictions and became one of the first martyrs of the reign of Queen Mary.  He was burnt at the stake within sight of his own Cathedral.

However, behind those facts is not just a man with the courage of his convictions, but a man of prayer. A man with a deep relationship with God, as can be seen in this extract from his last prayer which he spoke quietly a few minutes before being tied to the stake. Its passion still speaks to us today:

O Lord Jesus, that for whose love I leave willingly this life, and desire the bitter death of the cross with the loss of all my wordly things, than either to abide the blasphemy of thy most holy name, or to obey unto men in breaking of thy commandments; thou seest, Lord, that where I might live in wealth to worship a false god, and to honour thine enemy, I choose rather the torments of my body, and the loss of my life, and have counted all things but vile dust and dung, that I might win thee; which death is more dear unto me than thousands of gold and silver: such love, Lord, hast thou laid up in my breast, that I hunger for thee as the deer that is wounded desireth the soil … Accept this burnt sacrifice, O heavenly Father, not for the sacrifice’s sake, but for thy dear Son’s sake my Saviour; for whose testimony I offer my freewill offering with all my heart, with all my strength, with all my soul …

Just before this, as he was brought to the prepared stake he was reported to have been smiling, and this in a man not known for a jovial approach to life. He did not address the crowds who had gathered to see him die, but rather knelt to pray quietly. However seeing a friend in the crowd he beckoned him to come and listen to his final prayers, and then began to pray through the Apostles Creed. Before he had reached the end he was interrupted by a man producing a box in which was said to be a pardon from the Queen which could be his if he confessed the error of his ways. Hooper was not to be tempted, and twice pleaded: “If you love my soul, away with it!” He was then given permission to finish his prayer and spoke out the words given above. Before his death,  he was permitted to pray for over half an hour before concluding with:

O Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth; Lord have mercy on me; Christ have mercy on me; Lord have mercy upon me. Amen.

For further reading:

A Gloucester martyr: John Hooper and the English Reformation/ Pete Sullivan. Country Books: 2004.

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