In September 1646, Massachusetts Bay colonist and minister John Eliot first traveled to an Algonquin settlement to preach the gospel. That gathering became the first of many and would result in the conversion of hundreds of people. Year after year, Algonquin men, women, and children left debauchery and sorcery in order to worship God. Those settlements of new Christians came to be known as “Praying Towns.”
Throughout the Bible, prayer—especially corporate prayer—is the distinguishing mark of God’s people. We see this first in Genesis 4, the original family tree. After their fall into sin, Adam and Eve were shut out of the garden home where God had originally placed them. But God continued to be gracious toward them despite their rebellion, and He gave them children. These descendants, the family of Cain and the family of Seth, became the two very different lines of humanity. Cain’s line was marked by exponentially increasing wickedness. Today’s passage particularly notes Lamech, an arrogant man who bragged about his short temper and violent habits (vv.23–24). The members of Cain’s family were undoubtedly gifted: they raised livestock, played musical instruments,and forged useful metal tools. But the attitude of their hearts was rebellion against the God who had created them.
Seth, God’s gift to Eve after Abel’s death, fathered a line of godly descendants. In contrast to the description of the Cainites, Genesis does not give many details about the family of Seth. It does record that they were praying people. To “call on the name of the Lord”(v. 26) means to call on Yahweh—the relational, covenant-making God—to accomplish His purposes in the world. By this practice the children of Seth distinguished themselves from the wickedness around them.