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[Matthew Henry is greatly known for his magnificent commentary on the whole Bible.  He also wrote a book proposing A Method for Prayer, in between writing volumes of that commentary.  This series of articles is from that book.]

 

How to Begin Every Day with God, pt. 1,

by Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

 

      My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord;

in the morning will I direct my Prayer unto thee,

and I will look up

(Psalm 5:3).

 

You would think it a rude question if I should ask you, and yet I must entreat you seriously to ask yourselves, What brings you to church on an early Sunday morning? And what is your business there? Whenever we are attending on God in holy ordinances (nay, wherever we are), we should be able to give a good answer to the question which God put to the prophet, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9).  Just as when we return from holy ordinances, we should be able to give a good answer to the question which Christ put to those that attended on John Baptist’s ministry, “What went you out into the wilderness to see?” (Matt. 11:7).

One hopes that it is not merely for a walk on a pleasant morning that you are go to a Sunday service, and that it is not for company, or to meet your friends there, but that you go with a pious design to give glory to God, and to receive grace from Him, and in both to keep up your communion with Him. And if you ask the minister, what his business is, we hope he can truly say, it is (as God shall enable him) to assist and further the congregation.

While the Sunday service continues, you have an opportunity of more than doubling your morning devotions. Besides your worshipping of God in secret, and in your families, which the service must not supercede, or jostle out, you there call upon God’s name in the solemn assembly. And it is as much your business, in all such exercises, to pray a prayer together, as it is to hear a sermon. And it is said, the original of the morning exercise was a meeting for prayer, at the time when the nation was groaning under the dreadful desolating judgment of a civil war. You have also an opportunity of conversing with the word of God; you have precept upon precept, and line upon line. O that, as the opportunity wakens you morning by morning, so (as the prophet speaks) your ears may be awakened to hear as the learned (see Isa. 50:4).

But this is not all; we desire that such impressions may be made upon you by this cluster of opportunities, as you may always abide under the influence of; that these articles may leave you better disposed to morning worship ever after; that these frequent acts of devotion may so confirm the habit of it, as that from henceforward your daily worship may become more easy, and, if I may say so, in a manner natural to you.

For your help herein, I would recommend to you holy David’s example in the text, who having resolved in general, in verse 2, that he would abound in the duty of prayer, and abide by it— “Unto thee will I pray”—here fixes one proper time for it, and that is the morning—“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning”—though not in the morning only. David solemnly addressed himself to the duty of prayer three times a day, as Daniel did: “Morning and evening, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud” (Ps. 55:17). Nay, he did not think that enough, but “seven times a day will I praise thee” (Ps. 119: l64). But particularly in the morning.

Doctrine: It is our wisdom and duty to begin every day with God.

Let us observe in the Text :

First. The good work itself that we are to do.— God must hear our voice, we must direct our prayer to him, and we must look up.

Second. The special time appointed and observed for the doing of this good work; and that is in the morning, and again in the morning; that is, every morning, as duly as the morning comes.

For the first: The good work, which, by the example of David we are here taught to do, is, in one word, to pray.  This is a duty dictated by the light and law of nature, which plainly and loudly speaks, Should not a people seek unto their God? On this matter, the gospel of Christ gives us much better instructions in, and encouragement to, than any that nature furnishes us with; for it tells us what we must pray for, in whose name we must pray, and by whose assistance, and invites us to come boldly to the throne of grace, and to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. This work we are to do, not in the morning only, but at other times, at all times. We read of preaching the word out of season, but we do not read of praying out of season, for that is never out of season.  The throne of grace is always open, and humble supplicants are always welcome, and cannot come unseasonably.

But let us see how David here expresses his pious resolution to abide by this duty.

1. My voice shalt thou hear. Two ways David may here be understood. Either,

(1.) As promising himself a gracious acceptance with God. Thou shalt, i.e. thou wilt hear my voice, when in the morning I direct my prayer to thee: so it is the language of his faith, grounded upon God’s promise that His ear shall be always open to His people’s cry. He had prayed, in ver. 1, “Give ear to my words, O Lord”: and, ver. 2, “Hearken unto the voice of my cry”; and here he receives an answer to that prayer, “thou wilt hear”: I doubt not but thou wilt, and though I have not presently a grant of the thing I prayed for, yet I am sure my prayer is heard, is accepted, and comes up for a memorial, as the prayer of Cornelius did; it is put upon the file, and shall not be forgotten. If we look inward, and can say, by experience, that God has prepared our heart, we may look upward, may look forward, and say with confidence that He will cause His ear to hear.

We may be sure of this, and we must pray, in the assurance of it, in a full assurance of His faith, that wherever God finds a praying heart, He will be found a prayer-hearing God. Though the voice of prayer be a low voice, a weak voice, yet if it come from an upright heart, it is a voice that God will hear, that He will hear with pleasure, it is His delight, and that He will return a gracious answer to. He hath heard thy prayers, He hath seen thy tears. When therefore we stand praying, this ground we must stand upon, this principle we must stand to, nothing doubting, nothing wavering, that whatever we ask of God as a Father, in the name of Jesus Christ the mediator, according to the will of God revealed in the Scripture, it shall be granted us either in kind or kindness. So says the promise in John 16:23, and the truth of it is sealed to by the concurring experience of the saints in all ages, ever since men began to call upon the name of the Lord, that Jacob’s God never yet said to Jacob’s seed, seek ye me in vain, and He will not begin now. When we come to God by prayer, if we come aright, we may be confident of this, that notwithstanding the distance between heaven and earth, and our great unworthiness to have any notice taken of us or any favor showed us; yet God does hear our voice, and will not turn away our prayer, or His mercy. 

Or, (2.) It is rather to be taken, as David’s promising God a constant attendance on Him in the way He has appointed. “My voice shalt thou hear”, i.e., I will speak to thee, because Thou hast inclined Thine ear unto me many a time, therefore I have taken up a resolution to call upon Thee at all times, even to the end of my time. Not a day shall pass but Thou shalt be sure to hear from me. Not that the voice is the thing that God regards, as they seemed to think who in prayer made their voice to be heard on high (see Isa. 58:4). Hannah prayed and prevailed, when her voice was not heard; but it is the voice of the heart that is here meant. God said to Moses, “Wherefore criest thou unto me”, when we do not find that he said one word (see Exod. 14:15). Praying is lifting the soul up to God, and pouring out the heart before Him; yet, as far as the expression of the devout affections of the heart by words may be of use to fix the thoughts, and to excite and quicken the desires, it is good to draw near to God, not only with a pure heart, but with a humble voice; so must we render the calves of our lips.

However, God understands the language of the heart, and that is the language in which we must speak to God. David prays here, in Psalm 5:1, not only “give ear to my words”, but also “consider my meditation”; and, in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, proceeding from the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.”

This therefore we have to do in every prayer, we must speak to God.  And we must see to it that God hears from us daily.

 

[This article will continue in the next issue, D.V.]

 

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This article is taken from:  Henry, Matthew.  A Method for Prayer. Glasgow: D. Mackenzie, 1834. (Originally published in 1710).  A PDF file of this book can be downloaded, free of charge, at:

         http://www.ClassicChristianLibrary.com