Chapter 54 - Matthew Henry on Daily Prayer
Henry's "Method for Prayer" is much under-rated, published in 1710.
He calls us to prayer three times a day, and the beginning, middle and end. We should begin our day with God, wait upon Him all day, and close the day considering our life's end.
The strength of Henry's book is his method for prayer: praying Scripture back to God as petitions and claiming promises. He also turns a doctrine of God into prayer.
Chapter 55 - Meditation
The Puritans were meditating long before the new age movement co-opted this word.
Meditation is thinking upon a biblical truth such that it moves your heart and applies to your life and conscience. God calls us to meditate on His Word in many places (Joshua 1:8; Deut. 6:7; Psalm 19:14; 119:11). Puritans were fond of the digestion metaphor. One may take in Scripture or a sermon, but it needs digesting in the soul or it won't do much good. "It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither" (893).
They recommended meditating frequently (once or twice a day) for 15-60 minutes. Solitude and quiet are necessary. Choose a verse, short passage, or doctrine to begin with. Use the three books of Scripture, creation, and conscience. Examine yourself and make resolutions, concluding with prayer. Especially important times to meditate are before and during worship and Communion, and on the Sabbath.
Meditation focuses you on God, stirs up your affections for Him, fosters repentance, aids prayer, weans us from worldliness, promotes gratitude and glorifies God.
Don't let these obstacles stand in your way:
- Lack of attention span
- Spiritual lethargy
- Worldly pleasures
"If the farmer meditates upon his land... shouldn't Christians meditate upon their God and Savior?" (906).
This is a much lost art, but perhaps the Puritans made a category and method of something that we can more plainly describe as thinking and examining one's self while you're reading Scripture and moving to prayer.
Two tendencies the Puritans had that I lean against showed up on the same page. "The pleasures of the world discompose our souls" (905). Yes, but God gave them to direct us to Him. We abuse them in our sin, true. And it is usually harder to go from a pleasure to a spiritual exercise, than from hardship to some devotional act. But still, we ought to enjoy what God has given for our senses, and glorify Him for it, instead of deny lawful things.
The second was the assumption that God's truth doesn't impress us as it should because we don't meditate on them as we should. I would say that while we have a responsibility to do our part, the blessings of God aren't ours for the taking like a vending machine. God's Spirit must work.