“Pray without ceasing,” Paul says. Simple words, but a seemingly impossible challenge. How can you be expected to pray all the time? In chapter 54 of their work A Puritan Theology, Joel Beeke and Mark Jones dive deep into Matthew Henry’s great book A Method for Prayer to distil what he says about the importance of praying through all of life’s circumstances. As it turns out, there is no great trick to it. What follows is at times transcribed and at times adapted from A Puritan Theology.
Begin Every Day with God
Henry writes, “It is our wisdom and duty to begin every day with God.” You always have something to talk to God about. He is a dear friend, so it is a pleasure to know him personally and to walk with him intimately. He is also Lord over you and over everything that touches your life. Shall a servant not talk to his master? Shall a dependent not talk to his provider? Shall one in danger not converse with his defender?
Let no obstacle hinder you from coming to God. Though God is in heaven, he will hear your cries from the depths. Though God be fearsome, he grants believers the Spirit of adoption to have freedom with him. Yes, God already knows what you need, but he requires your prayers for his glory and to fit you to receive mercy. Though you are busy with many things, only one thing is necessary: To walk with God in peace and love. So for that reason you ought to begin each day with God.
Why should you dedicate morning hours to God? Because God deserves your best and not just the day’s leftovers when you are tired and worn. For many or most of us, the best hours are the earliest hours. Not only that but, as Henry wrote, “In the morning we are most free from company and business, so we should give him fresh thanksgivings and fresh meditations on his beauties. In the morning as we prepare for the work of the day, let us commit it all to God.” Begin every day with him, and give him the best part of your day.
Spend Every Day With God
You need to begin the day with God, but you also need to spend the day with God. In his explanation of Psalm 25:5 (“for you I wait all the day long”) Henry explains that this involves a patient expectation of God to come at his time, and it involves a constant attendance upon the Lord in the duties of personal worship.
The Christian’s constant attendance upon God throughout the day is captured in the phrase “to wait upon the Lord.” Henry said, “To wait upon God is to live a life of desire towards him, delight in him, dependence on him, and devotedness to him.” Constant dependence is the attitude of a child toward his father in whom he trusts and on whom he casts all of his cares. This waiting on the Lord is something you can do every day, and not just the days you gather for public worship. You do it in private worship, in family worship, and in corporate worship.
Wherever you go or whatever you do each day, search for abundant reasons for prayer and praise. As James wrote, if you are sad, then pray to God; if you are happy, then sing praises to God (James 5:13). That covers all of life.
Close Every Day with God
Just as you begin your days with God, and spend your days with God, you should also close your days with God. Henry insists that you may end each day in contentment only because you have the Lord as our God. “Let this still every storm, command and create a calm in thy soul. Having God to be our God in covenant, we have enough; we have all. And though the gracious soul still desires more of God, it never desires more than God; in him it reposeth itself with a perfect complacency; in him it is at home, it is at rest.”
When you lay down to rest at night, Henry advises you to lie down with thanksgiving to God. You should briefly review his mercies and deliverances at the end of each day. “Every bit we eat, and every drop we drink, is mercy; every step we take, and every breath we draw, mercy.” You should be thankful for nighttime as God’s provision for your rest, for a place to lay your head, and for the healthy of body and peace of mind which allows you to sleep. You can lay down and sleep in peace, resting your soul upon the intercession of Christ to grant you peace with God, and forgiving your fellow men of all their offenses against you so that your heart may be at peace with God and man.
Begin the day with God. Spend the day with God. Close the day with God. “This life of communion with God, and constant attendance upon him, is a heaven upon earth.” Indeed.