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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. 2,
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
This we have to do in every prayer, we must speak to God; we must write to him; we say we hear from a friend whom we receive a letter from; we must see to it that God hears from us daily. Why?:
1. He accepts and requires it. Though he has no need of us or our services, nor can be benefited by them, yet he has obliged us to offer the sacrifice of prayer and praise to him continually.
(1.) Thus he will keep up his authority over us, and keep us continually in mind of our subjection to him, which we are apt to forget. He requires that by prayer we solemnly pay our homage to him, and give honour to his name, that by this act and deed of our own, thus frequently repeated, we may strengthen the obligations we lie under to observe his statutes and keep his laws, and be more and more sensible of the weight of them. He is thy Lord, and worship thou him, that by frequent humble adorations of his perfections, thou mayest make a constant humble compliance with his will the more easy to thee. By doing obeisance we are learning obedience. (2.) Thus he will testify his love and compassion towards us. It would have been an abundant evidence of his concern for us, and his goodness to us, if he had only said, let me hear from you as often as there is occasion; call upon me in the time of trouble or want, and that is enough but to show his complacency in us, as a father doth his affection to his child when he is sending him abroad, he gives us this charge, let me hear from you every day, by every post, though we have no particular business; which shows, that the prayer of the upright is his delight; it is music in his ears. Christ saith to his dove, “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely” (Cant. 2:14). And it is to the spouse, the church, that Christ speaks in the close of that Song of Songs, “O thou that dwellest in the garden,” (in the original it is feminine), “the companions hearken to thy voice, cause me to hear it” (Cant. 8:13). What a shame is this to us, that God is more willing to be prayed to, and more ready to hear prayer, than we are to pray.
2. We have something to say to God every day. Many are not sensible of this, and it is their sin and misery; they live without God in the world; they think they can live without him, are not sensible of their dependence upon him, and their obligations to him; and therefore, for their parts, they have nothing to say to him; he never hears from them, no more than the father did from his prodigal son when he was upon the ramble, from one week’s end to another. They ask scornfully, “What can the Almighty do for us?” And then no marvel if they ask next, “What profit shall we have if we pray unto him?” And the result is, they say to the Almighty, “Depart from us”; and so shall their doom be. But I hope better things of you, my brethren, and that you are not of those who cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God; you are all ready to own that there is a great deal that the Almighty can do for you, and that there is profit in praying to him, and therefore resolve to draw near to God, that he may draw nigh to you.
We have something to say to God daily:
(1.) As to a friend we love and have freedom with; such a friend we cannot go by without calling on, and never lack something to say to, though we have no particular business with him; to such a friend we unbosom ourselves, we profess our love and esteem, and with pleasure communicate our thoughts. Abraham is called the friend of God, and this honour have all the saints. I have not called you servants (saith Christ), but friends. His secret is with the righteous. We are invited to acquaint ourselves with him, and to walk with him as one friend walks with another. The fellowship of believers is said to be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And have we nothing to say to him then ?
Is it not errand enough to the throne of his grace to admire his infinite perfections, which we can never fully comprehend, and yet never sufficiently contemplate, and take complacency in? To please ourselves in beholding the beauty of the Lord, and giving him the glory due to his name? Have we not a great deal to say to him in acknowledgment of his condescending grace and favour to us, in manifesting himself to us, and not to the world; and in profession of our affection and submission to him. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.
God hath something to say to us as a friend every day, by the written word in which we must hear his voice, by his providences, and by our own consciences; and he hearkens and hears whether we have anything to say to him by way of reply, and we are very unfriendly if we have not. When he saith to us, “Seek ye my face”, should not our hearts answer as to one we love, “Thy face, Lord, will we seek”? When he saith to us. “Return, ye backsliding children”; should not we readily reply, “Behold, we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God”? If he speak to us by way of conviction and reproof, ought not we to return an answer by way of confession and submission? If he speak to us by way of comfort, ought we not to reply in praise? If you love God, you can be at no loss for something to say to him, something for your hearts to pour out before him, which his grace has already put there.
(2.) As to a master we serve and have business with: Think how numerous and important the concerns are that lie between us and God, and you will readily acknowledge that you have a great deal to say to him. We have a constant dependence upon him; all our expectation is from him; we have constant dealings with him; he is the God with whom we have to do (see Heb. 4:13).
Do we not know that our happiness is bound up in his favour? It is life, the life of our souls; it is better than life, than the life of our bodies. And have we not business with God, to seek his favour, to entreat it with our whole hearts, to beg as for our lives that he would lift up the light of his countenance upon us, and to plead Christ’s righteousness, as that only through which we can hope to obtain God’s loving kindness.
Do we not know that we have offended God, that by sin we have made ourselves obnoxious to his wrath and curse, and that we are daily contracting guilt? And have we not then business enough with him to confess our faults and folly, to ask for pardon in the blood of Christ, and in him, who is our peace, to make our peace with God, and renew our covenant with him in his own strength, to go and sin no more?
Do we not know that we have daily work to do for God, and our own souls, the work of the day that is to be done in its day? And have we not then business with God, to beg of him to show us what he would have us to do, direct us in it, and strengthen us for it? To seek to him for assistance and acceptance, that he will work in us both to will and to do that which is good, and then countenance and own his own work? Such business as this the servant has with his master.
Do we not know that we are continually in danger? Our lives, our bodies, and our comforts are so; we are continually surrounded with diseases and deaths, whose arrows fly at midnight and at noon-day. And have we not then business with God, going out and coming in, lying down and rising up, to put ourselves under the protection of his providence, to be the charge of his holy angels? Our souls much more are so, and their lives and comforts; it is those our adversary the devil, a strong and subtle adversary, wars against, and seeks to devour: and have we not then business with God, to put ourselves under the protection of his grace, and clothe ourselves with his armour, that we may be able to stand against the wiles and violence of Satan, so as we may neither be surprised into sin by a sudden temptation, nor overpowered by a strong one?
Do we not know that we are dying daily, that death is working in us, and hastening towards us, and that death fetches us to judgment, and judgment fixeth us in our everlasting state? And have we not then something to say to God in preparation for what is before us? Shall we not say, “Lord, make us to know our end! Lord, teach us to number our days!” Have we not business with God, to judge ourselves, that we may not be judged, and to see that our matters be right and good?
Do we not know that we are members of that body whereof Christ is the head, and are we not concerned to approve ourselves living members? Have we not then business with God upon the public account, to make intercession for his church? Have we nothing to say for Zion? Nothing in behalf of Jerusalem’s ruined walls? Nothing for the peace and welfare of the land of our nativity? Are we not of the family, or but babes in it, that we concern not ourselves in the concerns of it?
Have we no relations, no friends that are dear to us, whose joys and griefs we share in? And have we nothing to say to God for them? No complaints to make, no requests to make known? Are none of them sick or in distress? None of them tempted or disconsolate? And have we not errands to the throne of grace, to beg relief and succour for them?
Now lay all this together, and then consider whether you have not something to say to God every day; and particularly in days of trouble, when it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement; and when, if you have any sense of things, you will say unto God, “Do not condemn me.”
. A PDF file of this book can be downloaded, free of charge, at