From The Christian’s Daily Walk
Precede Prayer with Meditation
Before you begin the day with solemn prayer and thanksgiving, Ps 92: 1-2, Ps 88:13, that these duties may be the better performed, it will be convenient, if you have time, to prepare yourself by meditation, Lam 3:40-41, Job 11:13. The matter of this meditation should be an inquiry into your present state:
- How all things stand between God and you,
- How you have behaved since you last prayed and renewed your peace with God,
- What sins you have committed,
- What graces and benefits you lack,
- What fresh favours God has bestowed on you, Ps 116: 1-13, since last you gave him this tribute of thanks, and
- How much praise and thanks you owe to him also for the continuance of former blessings.
Think also what employments you shall have that day, in which you may need his special grace and assistance. Consider likewise what ground and warrant you have to approach the throne of grace, to ask pardon, and to hope for favour and help of God. Upon these considerations, you must seriously and faithfully endeavour, in the strength of Christ (without whom you can do nothing) to reform whatsoever you find to be amiss, Job 11:14; flying unto, and only relying upon, God’s mercy in Christ, to acknowledge him in all things; and that you will now seek grace and help of him, whereby you may walk as in his sight in all well pleasing, all that day.
To assist you with this, do the following:
- Lay a strict charge upon your conscience to deal impartially, plainly, and fully, in this examination and judging of yourself.
- You should be so well acquainted with the substance and meaning of God’s holy law, Deut 6: 8-9, that you may be able to carry in your head a catalogue or table of the duties required, and vices forbidden, in each commandment, whereby you may seriously evaluate your past obedience and set before you the rule of life ahead.
- Lest the calling to mind the multitude and greatness of your sins should make you despair of God’s favour, you should be so well instructed in the Christian faith, and in the principal promises of the gospel, that you may be able also quickly to call them to mind, for the strengthening of your faith and hope in God. The form of sound words in the gospel, 2 Tim. 1:13, should be familiar to you for these purposes.
All these need not take up much time, yet you will find it to be time well redeemed. For by such preparation you will keep yourself from that rude and irreverent thrusting yourself into God’s holy presence, as you are warned in the Scriptures, Eccl 5:1-2.
Benefits of Meditation before Prayer
- It allows more boldness in prayer: When by this means your heart is well humbled, softened, and set right towards God, so that you can say that you regard no iniquity in your heart, Ps 66:18, John 9:31, and when you have hereby called in your thoughts from straggling [wandering], and have gotten composedness of mind and inward strength of soul (without which the arrow of prayer can never fly home to the mark), then you may approach into God’s special presence with more faith and boldness. You shall be more able to utter before him apt confessions, lawful requests, and due thanksgivings, all with more understanding, more humbly, more feelingly, more fervently, and with more assurance of a gracious hearing (all which are requisite in prayer) than you could ever possibly be able to do without such preparation.
- It has benefits beyond preparing you for prayer: This due preparation to prayer does not only fit you to pray, but is an excellent furtherance to an holy life. For it makes the conscience tender and watchful by the daily exercise of the knowledge of the precepts and threats of the law, and the precepts and promises of the gospel. And it being enforced to examine, accuse, judge, and pass sentence, and do a kind of execution upon you for your sin; smiting your heart, and wounding itself with godly fear, grief, and shame, (a work to which the conscience is loath to come till it needs must). Wherefore, to prevent all this trouble and smart, it will rather give all diligence in other acts which are more pleasing; namely, it will direct you in the ways to God, check and warn you before hand, lest you should sin, to the end that when you come to examine yourself again, it might find matter, not of grieving and tormenting, but of rejoicing and comforting your heart, which is the most proper and most pleasing work of a sanctified conscience, 2 Cor 1:12. He that knows that he must be at much pains to make himself whole and clean, when he is wounded and defiled, will take the more heed lest he wound and defile himself.
- It brings you into a better relationship with God: This due preparation to prayer, by examining, judging, and reforming yourself, doth prevent God’s judging you; for when you judge yourself, you shall not be judged of the Lord, says the apostle, 1 Cor. 11:31.
Finally, Enter into Prayer
Being rightly prepared, you must draw near into God’s special presence, falling low at his footstool, Ps 95:6, representing him to your thoughts as one who is in himself, and of himself, the only heavenly, all-knowing and almighty Majesty, Matt 6:9, now become your loving and merciful Father, through Christ his Son, your Lord: then you must pour out your soul before him in confessing your sins, 1 Sam. 1:15, and in making your desires (through the Spirit) known unto him in the name of Christ, for yourself and others, in all lawful petitions and supplications, with thanksgiving, Phil. 4:6 ; and all this with understanding, 1 Cor. 14:15, with the intention and full bent of the soul, Jas 5:16, and expectation of being heard, Mark 11:24, in due time and measure, and in the best manner.