Tuning our Hearts for Prayer

Psalm 39:3
       My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then I spake with my tongue.

GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): When we pray, we speak to God. This exercise of the soul can best be performed after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I find in my own case that the principal cause of my leanness and unfruitfulness is owing to an unaccountable backwardness to pray. I can write, or read, or converse, or hear, with a ready will; but prayer is more spiritual and inward than any of these; and the more spiritual any duty is, the more my carnal heart is apt to start from it.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): A great part of my time is spent in getting my heart in tune for prayer.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Whether this is a sign of a lack of deep spirituality or not I do not know—I do not think it is—but I confess freely I have often found it difficult to start praying in the morning…I have found nothing more important than to learn how to get oneself into that frame and condition in which one can pray.

GEORGE MÜLLER: Formerly, when I arose, I began to pray as soon as possible. But often I spent a quarter of an hour to an hour on my knees struggling to pray while my mind wandered. Now I rarely have this problem. As my heart is nourished by the truth of the Word, I am brought into true fellowship with God. I speak to my Father and to my Friend (although I am unworthy) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often astonishes me that I did not see the importance of meditation upon Scripture earlier in my Christian life. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so it is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God—not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our own hearts.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): Now meditation is a help to prayer. Gerson calls it the nurse of prayer. Meditation is like oil to the lamp; the lamp of prayer will soon go out unless meditation cherish and support it. Meditation and prayer are like two [turtle-doves], if you separate one the other dies; a cunning angler observes the time and season when the fish bite best, and then he throws in the angle; when the heart is warmed by meditation, now is the best season to throw in the angle of prayer, and fish for mercy. After Isaac had been in the field meditating he was fit for prayer when he came home. When the gun is full of powder it is fittest to discharge. So when the mind is full of good thoughts, a Christian is fittest by prayer to discharge; now he sends up whole volleys of sighs and groans to heaven. Meditation hath a double benefit in it, it pours in and pours out; first it pours good thoughts into the mind, and then it pours out those thoughts again into prayer; meditation first furnisheth with matter to pray and then it furnisheth with a heart to pray.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): “While I was musing,” saith David, “the fire burned,” verse 3.

THOMAS WATSON: And the very next words  are a prayer, verse 4, “Lord, make me to know mine end.” I muse on the works of Thy hands, I stretch forth my hands to Thee. The musing of his head made way for the stretching forth of his hands in prayer.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): What we take in by the Word, we digest by meditation, and let out by prayer. These three duties help one another. What is the reason men have such a barren, dry, and sapless spirit in their prayers? It is for want of exercising themselves in holy thoughts: My heart is inditing a good matter,―and then―my tongue is as the pen of a ready writer, Psalm 45:1…Again, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, Psalm 19:14. Implying that prayer is but the vent and expression of what we have deliberated and meditated upon. So David findeth his desires more earnest after grace, the more he mused and meditated…If the heart were often exercised in the Word, the promises would hold up our hearts in prayer, enlarge our affections, and we should be better able to pour out our spirits before Him.

WILLIAM GURNALL: The mightier any is in the Word, the more mighty he will be in prayer.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: What I have generally found is that to read something which can be characterized in general as devotional is of great value. By devotional I do not mean something sentimental, I mean something with a true element of worship in it. Notice that I do not say that should start yourself in prayer by always reading the Scriptures; because you can have precisely the same difficulty there. Start by reading something that will warm your spirit. Get rid of a coldness that may have developed in your spirit. You have to learn how to kindle a flame in your spirit, to warm yourself up, to give yourself a start. It is a comparable, if you like, to starting a car when it is cold. You have to learn how to use a spiritual choke. I have found it most rewarding to do that, and not struggle vainly. When one finds oneself in this condition, and that it is difficult to pray, do not struggle in prayer for the time being, but read something that will warm and stimulate you, and you will find that it will put you into a condition in which you will be able to pray more freely.

WILLIAM GURNALL: From meditation go to prayer. Indeed, a soul in meditation is on his way to prayer; that duty leads the Christian to this, and this brings help to that.

THOMAS WATSON: When Christ was on the Mount, then He prayed; so when the soul is upon the mount of meditation, now it is in tune for prayer. Prayer is the child of meditation: meditation leads the van, and prayer brings up the rear.


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