Why does John Proctor say, "it hurt my prayer, sir, it hurt my prayer"?
John Proctor utters this line as he is speaking with Reverend Hale about his history with the church in Salem. Hale is questioning Proctor about the "softness" of his record there and Proctor tries to explain that Reverend Parris is the reason he does not like to attend services.
Reverend Hale points out that Proctor has only been to Sunday services twenty-six times in seventeen months. (One might imagine, if there are four Sundays -- on average -- each month, Proctor would have had some sixty-eight or so opportunities to attend services. Therefore, Proctor has only been present about a third of the time.) Then, Proctor explains that Parris's insistence on having golden candlesticks on the altar really turned him off the man. He says that there used to be pewter candlesticks, lovingly made by Francis Nurse, but Parris talked about nothing besides golden candlesticks for twenty weeks until, finally, he got them. Proctor says,
I labor the earth from dawn of day to blink of night, and I tell you true, when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows -- it hurt my prayer, sir, it hurt my prayer. I think, sometimes, the man dreams cathedrals, not clapboard meetin' houses.
Proctor, a farmer, works very hard for his money, and having to pay for golden candlesticks (which would smack of the unnecessary ornament of Catholicism to a Puritan) when there were perfectly good pewter ones seemed like a total waste of his time and efforts. He accuses Parris of dreaming of cathedrals (again, whose ornament seemed like evidence of the corruption in the church to the Puritans) rather than being satisfied with plainer, poorer prayer. He claims that Reverend Parris's misplaced priorities, then, make it difficult for him to pray because there is a constant reminder of those priorities -- in the golden candlesticks -- immediately behind Parris every time he preaches.