I found myself reading about the prayer life of George Muller this morning. Oddly enough, I forfeited my own prayer time with the Lord reading about him. But it brought such soul satisfaction that I wanted to share with you …
Before this time my habitual practice had been, at least for ten years previously, to give myself to prayer immediately after having gotten dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, so that in this way my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that, by means of the Word of God, while meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord.
I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but simply for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result almost invariably is this, that after a very few minutes I have been led into prayer of some sort, whether confession, or thanksgiving, or intercession, or supplication; so that, although I do not give myself specifically to prayer, but rather to meditation, nevertheless my meditation upon the Word turns almost immediately more or less into prayer.
After a time of confession, or intercession, or supplication, or giving of thanks arising out of my meditation upon a few words or a verse, I then go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or for others, as the Word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the goal of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and my inner man is nourished and strengthened spiritually, so that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I find myself in a peaceful and happy state of heart. In addition, not only am I fed spiritually, but also during these times of meditation the Lord also communicates to me truth which later I find to be spiritual food for other believers—even though in the first place it was not for the sake of teaching or preaching or the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but simply for the profit of my own inner man.
The difference between the way I prayed before and the way I pray now is this: Before, when I awoke, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer. But what was the result? I often spent 15 to 30 minutes or even an hour on my knees in prayer before deriving any benefit from it, and often, I would really begin to pray only after having had my mind wander for the first 10, 15 or 30 minutes. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way because my heart, having first been nourished by the truth of God’s Word has been brought into experiential fellowship with God. As I commune with God around His Word, I then speak to Him as my Father and my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point.
I never read about this method in a book, nor did anyone ever tell me about it. And yet, now, ever since God taught me this concerning meditation and prayer, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God should do every morning is to first obtain food for his inner man. Just as our outward man is not capable of working long unless we eat, and as this is one of the first things that we do each morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food as well for the inner man.
Now, what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not merely reading the Word of God without comprehension, so that it simply passes through our minds like water running through a pipe, but instead, taking time to consider what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.
When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time from the heart, generally requires a certain amount of inward strength or godly desire, and the time when prayer can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God—where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us.
We can profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, even though we are ever so weak spiritually; in fact, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. When we pray in this manner, our minds will wander far less than if we simply give ourselves to prayer without first taking time to meditate.
~ Kelli Zaniel
We hadn’t spoken in a while.
The Christmas rush, the holiday travel, the sinus infections.
We reconnect on a Wednesday afternoon. The phone rings. My six year old answers and exclaims, “Mama, it is Ms. Betty!” Ms. Betty is a friend from our ministry at the Castaway Motel. I now call her part of our family. My multi-tasking-self holds the phone in one hand while making mac and cheese and PB&J’s in the other. In this moment, my mind floods with the insignificant…Christmas returns, new brake pads, and puberty talks. Well I suppose the puberty talks are significant…but hunny that’s for another day.
Ms. Betty is a story teller and this day is no exception. I cut off crust and make butterfly shaped sandwiches and she begins. She just moved from a run-down motel into a modest apartment for seniors. She is now removed from the prostitution and drugs that plagued the residents, her neighbors. This is a better life for her, a safer one.
She saves money and purchases a queen mattress and box springs at the Salvation Army. The nice man brings the mattress to the third floor and places it where it needs to go. Finally, her apartment is comfortably furnished just in time for Christmas.
T’was the night before Christmas or so the poem goes, not a creature is stirring not even a bedbug? Ahem, yes the mattress and all surrounding furniture begins to stir with bedbugs. This is one thing I’ve grown accustom to in ministry. Going with Christ to the least of these in Reno usually means going to the bedbug infested places too.
Bless her heart.
She spends wisely. And instead of a wink from jolly Old Saint Nick she gets a bite from the mattress critters. Lord have mercy!
But what she says next makes me spill my macaroni. Even though I cannot see her face, I know it’s smiling. She exclaims with contentment, “The Lord is with me. I am blessed with what He has given me. This may be inconvenient but God will use this to make me stronger.” She puts to death her desire for meager comfort, picks up her cross, and chases the heels of Jesus.
I gulp and pause and I know. She has the New Testament contentment and joy Paul talks about. A sincere joy despite her circumstance. The kind of joy and satisfaction in the supremacy of Christ that should be tucked inside the heart of every believer.
Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4); “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2); “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).
Ms. Betty clings to the feet of Jesus with gladness and nothing distracts her… not even the mud pies. Once again the kitchen table turns and she minsters to me. I am so amazed at her faith, her endurance, and her courage.
God reminds me of something as a new year commences. The way is hard that leads to life. But we must be careful of our emphasis. The focus is not on the “hard” but on the “life.” The eternal (John 3:16), abundant (John 10:10), exceedingly joyful (Psalm 43:4) and forever pleasurable (Psalm 16:11) life is so worth the fight that we will someday look back at the very worst, darkest, horrible battles and see them as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17), Piper.
Lord, awaken my joyful heart. Be magnified in my attitude. Like Ms. Betty, please help me to find joy in you especially when days flurry with disappointment. Help me to be so satisfied in you that I can call death gain. In the precious name of the resurrected Christ I pray, Amen.