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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. 4,

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).

 

We must direct our prayer unto God. He must not only hear our voice, but we must with deliberation and design address ourselves to him. In the original, it is no more but I will direct unto thee; it might be supplied, I will direct my soul unto thee, agreeing with Psalm 25:1: “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”  Or, I will direct my affections to thee; having set my love upon thee, I will let out my love to thee. Our translation supplies it very well, I will direct my prayer unto thee.

That is,

1. When I pray to thee, I will direct my prayers:  it denotes a fixedness of thought, and a close application of mind, to the duty of prayer. We must go about it solemnly, as those that have something of moment much at heart, and much in view therein, and therefore dare not trifle in it. When we go to pray, we must not give the sacrifice of fools, that think not either what is to be done, or what is to be gained, but speak the words of the wise, who aim at some good end in what they say, and suit it to that end.  We must have in our eye God’s glory, and our own true happiness; and so well ordered is the covenant of grace, that God has been pleased therein to twist interests with us; so that in seeking his glory, we really and effectually seek our own true interest. This is directing the prayer, as he that shoots an arrow at a mark directs it, and with a fixed eye and steady hand takes aim aright. This is engaging the heart to approach to God, and in order to that, disengaging it from everything else. He that takes aim with one eye, shuts the other; if we would direct a prayer to God, we must look off all other things, must gather in our wandering thoughts, must summon them all to draw near and give their attendance; for here is work to be done that needs them all, and is well worthy of them. Thus we must be able to say with the Psalmist, “O God, my heart is fixed, my heart is fixed” (Ps. 57:7).

2. When I direct my prayer, I will direct it to thee. And so it speaks,

a. The sincerity of our habitual intention in prayer. We must not direct our prayer to men, that we may gain praise and applause with them, as the Pharisees did, who proclaimed their devotions as they did their alms, that they might gain a reputation, which they knew how to make a hand of. Verily they have their reward; men commend them, but God abhors their pride and hypocrisy. We must not let our prayers run at large, as they did that said, “Who will show us any good?”  Nor are we to direct them to the world, courting its smiles, and pursuing its wealth, as those that are therefore said not to cry unto God with their hearts, because they assembled themselves for corn and wine (see Hos. 7:14). Let not self, carnal self, be the spring and center of your prayers, but God; let the eye of the soul be fixed upon him as your highest end in your applications to him; let this be the habitual disposition of your souls, to be to your God for a name and a praise; and let this be your design in all your desires, that God may be glorified, and by this let them all be directed, determined, sanctified, and, when need is, over-ruled. Our Saviour hath plainly taught us this in the first petition of the Lord’s prayer, which is, “Hallowed be thy name” (Luke 11:2). In that we fix our end, and other things are desired in order to that; in that, the prayer is directed to the glory of God, in all that whereby he has made himself known, the glory of his holiness: and it is with an eye to the sanctifying of his name, that we desire his kingdom may come, and his will be done, and that we may be fed, and kept, and pardoned. An habitual aim at God’s glory is that sincerity which is our gospel perfection:  that single eye, which, where it is, the whole body, the whole soul, is full of light. Thus the prayer is directed to God.

b. It speaks the steadiness of our actual regard to God in prayer. We must direct our prayer to God; that is, we must continually think of him as one with whom we have to do in prayer. We must direct our prayer, as we direct our speech to the person we have business with. The Bible is a letter God hath sent to us; prayer is a letter we send to him. Now you know it is essential to a letter that it be directed, and material that it be directed right; if it be not, it is in danger of miscarrying, which may be of ill consequence.  You pray daily, and therein send letters to God: you know not what you lose if your letters miscarry.  Will you therefore take instructions on how to direct prayer to him?:

(1). Give him his titles, as you do when you direct to a person of honour; address yourselves to him as the great Jehovah, God over all, blessed for evermore; the King of kings, and the Lord of lords; as the Lord God, gracious and merciful; let your hearts and mouths be filled with holy adorings and admirings of him, and fasten upon those titles of his which are proper to strike an holy awe of him upon your minds, that you may worship him with reverence and godly fear. Direct your prayer to him as the God of glory, with whom is terrible majesty, and whose greatness is unsearchable, that you may not dare to trifle with him, or to mock him in what you say to him.  

(2). Take notice of your relation to him, as his children, and let not that be overlooked and lost in your awe-stricken adoration of his glories. I have been told of a good man, among whose experiences, (which he kept a record of), after his death, this among other things was found: that at such a time, in secret prayer, his heart at the beginning of the duty was much enlarged in giving to God those titles which are full of awe and tremendous, in calling him the Great, the Mighty, and the Terrible God; but going on thus, he checked himself with this thought:  And why not my Father?  Christ hath, both by his precept and by his pattern taught us to address ourselves to God as Our Father; and the spirit of adoption teacheth us to cry Abba Father. A son, though a prodigal, when he returns and repents, may go to his Father, and say unto him, “Father, I have sinned;” and though no more worthy to be called a Son, yet humbly bold to call him Father. When Ephraim bemoans himself as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, God bemoans him as a dear son, a pleasant child (see Jer. 31:18-20); and if God is not ashamed, let us not be afraid to own the relation.

3. Direct your prayer to him in heaven; this our Saviour has taught us in the preface to the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).  Not that he is confined to the heavens, or as if the heaven, or heaven of heavens, could contain him, but there he is said to have prepared his throne; not only his throne of government, by which his kingdom ruleth over all, but his throne of grace, to which we must by faith draw near. We must eye him as God in heaven, in opposition to the gods of the heathen, which dwelt in temples made with hands. Heaven is a high place, and we must address ourselves to him as a God infinitely above us. It is the fountain of light, and to him we must address ourselves as the Father of lights. It is a place of prospect, and we must see his eye upon us, from thence beholding all the children of men. It is a place of purity, and we must in prayer eye him as a holy God, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. It is the firmament of his power, and we must depend upon him as one to whom power belongs. When our Lord Jesus prayed, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, to direct us whence to expect the blessings we need.

4. Direct this letter to be left with the Lord Jesus, the only Mediator between God and man; it will certainly miscarry if it be not put into his hand, who is that other angel that puts much incense to the prayers of the saints, and, so perfumed, presents them to the Father (see Rev. 8:3). What we ask of the Father must be in Jesus’ name; what we expect from the Father must be by his hand; for he is the High Priest of our profession, who is ordained for men to offer their gifts (Heb. 5:1). Direct the letter to be left with him, and he will deliver it with care and speed, and will make our service acceptable.

 

 [This study 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