Sunday, July 10, 2011

Matthew Henry on Prayer

Matthew Henry is best known for his Bible commentary. However, among his lesser-known works was "A Method for Prayer." He developed this list of characteristics for powerful, effectual, and soul-satisfying prayer (as adapted in "Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer," edited by Joel Beeke and Brian Najapfour).

1. Address the infinitely great and glorious Being
a. with holy awe and reverence
b. distinguishing Him from false gods
2. Reverently adore God as transcendently bright and blessed
a. the self-existent, self-sufficient, infinite Spirit
b. His existence indisputable
c. His nature beyond our comprehension
d. His perfection matchless
e. infinitely above us and all others

In particular, adore the Lord as
1. eternal, immutable
2. present in all places
3. perfect in His knowledge of all
4. unsearchable in wisdom
5. sovereign, owner, and Lord of all
6. irresistible in power
7. unspotted in purity and righteousness
8. always just in His government
9. always true, inexhaustibly good
10. infinitely greater than our best praises

3. Give God the praise of His glory in heaven
4. Give Him glory as our creator, protector, benefactor, and ruler
5. Give honor to the three distinct Persons of the Godhead
6. Acknowledge our dependence on Him and obligation to our creator
7. Declare God to be our covenant God who owns us
8. Acknowledge the inestimable favor of being invited to draw near to Him
9. Express our unworthiness to draw near to God
10. Profess our desire for Him as our happiness
11. Profess our hope and trust in His all-sufficiency
12. Ask God graciously to accept us and our poor prayers
13. Pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit in our prayers
14. Make the glory of God as the highest goal of our prayers
15. Profess our reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ alone

I don't imagine that Henry foresaw us going through all of these elements each time we pray. That would turn prayer into a chore, a matter of checking off a to-do list, rather than conversing with our Father in Heaven. However, as we think to cover them all over time, I would expect that our awareness of the grandeur of God would be magnified and our dependence on Him deepened. Those would seem to be worthy things!

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