Spending the Day in Prayer

I long to grow in my life of prayer.

It is astonishing that I have come so far on so feeble prayer. Like holding my breath while running, it makes no sense, it will not last long, and I will not get very far without collapsing.

I need to commune with God, not just as a Pastor, but simply as a Christian. Prayer brings me back to my dependence on God for my every need. Prayer is worship before the throne of grace. Prayer is the least I could do, the simplest act of faith, and yet it is the greatest power of change in my life and one of the hardest disciplines to maintain.

I’ve been studying from Joel Beeke’s, Taking Hold of God; Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer*. I came across this summary of Matthew Henry’s “Directions for Praying All Day” that I thought worth sharing. May you be blessed and encouraged in your prayers as I was.

Directive One: Begin Every Day with God

Henry wrote, “It is our wisdom and duty to begin every day with God.” David testified in Psalm 5:3 that the morning hours are especially good for prayer. Likewise, Henry observed that the priests offered a sacrificial Lamb and burned incense every morning, and singers thanked the Lord every morning. He cited these examples to indicate that all Christians, who are spiritual priests in Christ, should offer spiritual sacrifices every morning to God. God who is Alpha, requires our first fruits; therefore, we should give him the first part of the day. God deserves our best, not just the leftovers of the day when we are tired and worn out. Henry wrote, “In the morning we are most free from company and business, and ordinarily have the best opportunity for solitude.” God gives us fresh mercies every morning, so we should give Him fresh thanksgivings and fresh meditations on His beauties. In the morning we prepare for the work of the day, let us commit it to God. Begin every day with God.

Directive Two: Spend Every Day With God

The Christian’s attendance upon God throughout the day is captured in the phrase to wait upon the Lord. “To wait on God, is to live a life of desire towards him, delight in him, dependence on him, and devoted ness to him,” Henry wrote. We should spend our days desiring God, like a beggar constantly looking to His benefactor, hungering not onl for His gifts but for the One who is the Bread of Life. We should live in delight of God, like a lover with his beloved. “Do we love God?” Henry asked. Constant dependence is the attitude of a child towards his Father whom he trusts and on whom he casts all his cares. A life of devotedness is that of a servant towards His Master, “ready to observe his will, and to do his work, and in everything to consult his honor and his interest.” It is “to make the will of his precept the rule of our practice,” and “to make the will of his providence the rule of our patience.” Henry thus argued that to pray without ceasing is a disposition of the heart waiting upon the Lord all through the day.

Directive Three: Close Every Day with God

Henry said we may end our days in contentment if we have the Lord as our God. He wrote, “Let this still every storm, on and and create a calm in thy soul. Having God Be ourGod 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 reposted itself with a perfect complacency; in him it is at home, it is at rest.”

Henry advised us to lie down with thanksgiving to God when we go to bed at night. We should review his mercies and deliverances at the end of each day. “Every bite we eat, and every drop we drink, is mercy; every step we take, and every breath we draw, mercy.” We should be thankful for nighttime as God’s provision for our rest, for a place to lay our heads, and for the health of body and peace of mind which allows us to sleep.

Henry suggested we might fall asleep with thoughts such as these:

To thy glory, O God, I now go to sleep. Whether we eat or drink, yea, or sleep, for this is included in whatever we do – we must do it for the glory of God…. To thy grace, O God, and to the word of thy grace I now commend myself. It is good to fall asleep, with a fresh surrender of our whole selves, body, soul, and spirit, to God… O that when I awake I may still be with God; that the parenthesis of sleep, bough long, may not break off the thread of my communion with God, but that as soon as I awake I may resume it!

Oh may I, may we, learn to live in prayer like this!

* Beeke, Joel; Najapfour, Brian. Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer. (Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 2011) pgs 153-152.

Our Common Salvation

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
(Jude 3)

I was re-reading the letter of Jude yesterday, you know, that little one just before you get to the Revelation according to John.  It’s only 25 verses long, but it is loaded with an incredibly deep and timely message.  It takes little time to read, but a lifetime to exhaust the richness and depth of its teaching.  (If anyone’s interested, I’ve got recordings of Dr. John Gerstner teaching through the letter of Jude, in a mere 12 lessons.)

Jude starts his letter telling us that he was eager to write about our common salvation, but instead found it necessary to write an appeal to contend for the faith which was under attack.  The rest of the letter has Jude revealing the destructive influence of the false teaching of those who had crept into the church, and a call to persevere for the faith that is demonstrated in love, prayer, and holiness.

This reminds me of something I heard a while back about Pastoral Ministry: It is the ministry of interruptions.  A pastor plans his day and works to meet the goals he’s set before himself, but often finds the real ministry comes in answering the unexpected phone call or visit.  Most real ministry happens in the interruptions.  I think Jude’s letter is a good example of this. 

As I was reading, however, my mind wandered, as it often does.  I kept thinking, “I wonder what Jude’s original letter would have been like?”  We’ll never know, but I think it is helpful to stop and consider what is meant by his phrase, “our common salvation?”

The word here for common is “koinos.”  When you study Biblical Greek, you are studying koine Greek, the common Greek that was spoken in the marketplace of all the nations conquered by Alexander the Great.  So “common” suggests the ordinary, everyday stuff of life – things that are shared or common among all people.

So what is our “common salvation”?  There is nothing common or everyday about our salvation.  It is the glorious gospel of God’s redeeming work for His beloved in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:7-10).  Paul talks about the height and breadth and depth of God’s love for us (Eph 3:18), the mystery of the gospel of Salvation – surely no common stuff!

But it is common in that this salvation is shared by all who are in Christ Jesus through faith.  Salvation is the free gift of God’s grace to all who are in Christ (Rom 3:22-24) regardless of race, status, gender… regardless of the depth of sinfulness before Christ, those who are in Christ are saved from their sin and the wrath of God’s judgment upon them.

I read somewhere once, “The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are all short of [the glory of God]; but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine, and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they.” There is a common sinfulness – and there is a salvation that is shared by all who are in Christ.  Everyone falls short, but everyone can be justified freely by His grace.

Matthew Henry once wrote, “The gospel salvation is a common salvation, that is, in a most sincere offer and tender of it to all mankind to whom the notice of it reaches… Whoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely, Rev. 22:17. The application of it is made to all believers, and only to such; it is made to the weak as well as to the strong.”

We share a common salvation for the redeemed have “one body and one spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-7).

Jude could not write at length about this because he had to address a false gospel that had crept into the church, threatening the very heart of that common salvation. It is pure speculation what he might have said, but we can see from other letters what he might have included.

Philippians 4:4–7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 12:9–13 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Romans 15:7 “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Hebrews 10:23–25 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Ephesians 5:1–2, 21 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God… submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Colossians 3:12–17 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Those are just a few that came to mind.

Jude could not write the letter, but praise the Lord others could, and that God’s Word still speaks to us of our common salvation, and of the uncommon life we are called to share.