Occasionally God answers our prayers before we offer them. William Tyndale put his life at risk when he decided to translate the Bible into the English language during the days of King Henry VIII. The church and government opposed him, but he told one clergyman, “If God spare my life, I will cause the boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” On October 6, 1536 he was burned at the stake for his efforts. His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
He perished without knowing the Lord had already answered his prayer—one year earlier, almost to the very day. The answer? Miles Coverdale. Born in 1488, Coverdale came under the influence of Robert Barnes at Cambridge who discussed ideas “out of Germany” with him. When Coverdale picked up the Bible and began reading it for himself, he fell in love with it. “Now I begyne (begin) to taste of Holy Schryptures; now (honour be to God) I am sett to the most swete (sweet) smell with the godly savour of holy and awncyent (ancient) Doctoures.”
Soon he began preaching an evangelical message. It proved impossible for him in England, so he fled to the Continent where he spent seven years translating the Bible from Latin into English for his own people. It was published in 1535, the first complete edition of the Bible in English. He wisely dedicated it to King Henry VIII, who, being flattered, allowed it to become the first English rendering of Scripture to circulate without official hindrance—thus answering Tyndale’s prayer one year in advance.
In his preface Coverdale said he had not coveted the task of translating Scripture, but “it greued (grieved) me yt other nacyons (nations) shulde (should) be more plenteously prouyded (provided) with ye scripture in theyr (their) mother tongue than we. … ”
Coverdale became rector of St. Magnus Church near London Bridge, and visitors today can read a memorial plaque on the east wall of the church: … he spent many years of his life preparing a translation of the Scriptures. On the 4th of October, 1535, the first complete printed English version of the Bible was published under his direction.
I will answer their prayers before they finish praying. (Isaiah 65:24)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct. 4.