Matthew Henry on Prayer

The great puritan Matthew Henry wrote an outstanding book on biblical prayer called A Method for Praying.  In a world where an adverbial phrase – I just want to…like – is the repeated chorus in prayer, Henry’s book is an antidote to such a shallow chorus.  In Ligon Duncan’s terms (from the intro), a scriptural pattern of prayer “…will move us from our inherent man-centeredness in prayer to a Biblical, God-centered way of praying” (p. 9).

To be clear, this book is not really Henry’s devotional thoughts on prayer or “tips” on praying powerfully.  Rather, it is a big outline of the prayer-patterns of scripture with all kinds of verses that display such prayer patterns.  For example, the first part of prayer is adoration.  In this section, Henry simply puts many verses together in which the scriptures adore God (i.e. for his perfections, wisdom, sovereignty, etc).  The next few sections include confession of sins, repentance, petition, supplication, thanksgiving, and conclusions to prayer.  In other words, Henry basically lists many verses from scripture on the certain prayer topics, and puts them together for ease of praying.

Let me give another example.  Under the “Petition” section, Henry lists prayers for more hope in the Christian life.  Here’s how it reads:

“Let patience work experience in us, and experience hope, such a hope as maketh not ashamed.  Through patience and comfort of the scriptures, let us have hope, and be saved by hope.  Let the God of Jacob be our help, and our hope always be in the Lord our God.  Let us be begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and let that hope be to us as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered” (p. 66).

After nearly each phrase, Henry lists the scripture reference.  This is a great way to improve our prayer language.  It is easy to grasp for straws when we pray, filling the silence (which is sometimes good!) with useless adverbs and adjectives.  Learning to pray this way is learning to pray biblically.

The book also has a few sermons Henry gave on prayer, along with some appendices.  The appendices contain the entire book in outline form both short and long (great for outlining prayers with some specifics).  There is also a brief outline following Samuel Miller’s discussion of public prayer.    This book is a treasury of scripture and a much needed tool for prayer; it will convict you that robust, God centered prayers are those bathed with scripture.

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