I’ll meet you here, in early morning prayer
By DAVID WHITLOCK
Ahh, the early morning hour: I awake to it, greeting it with a happy salute. It’s the perfect time to be alone, my favorite part of the day. At 4 a.m. no one is texting me and no one is calling. Even my two Schnauzers prefer to be left alone, curled up in a furry ball.
Other than the quiet rumble of my drip coffee maker finishing my brew, not a sound is heard in my little monastery where I observe the great silence.
Now, on occasion when my alarm wakes me, I want to fall back into the folds of the sheets. On those days, rather than charging forth for the kingdom, I do well to trudge to the coffee pot hoping that I remembered to pre-program it to brew automatically. Even the simple task of measuring the coffee to the prescribed amount of water is more complex than my somnolent brain can manage. Getting my hands on a freshly brewed cup of my bolt-strong coffee is the extent of my thought process.
It’s on those days that I invariably hear Martin Luther’s words ringing in my ears as I make my way to the kitchen: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Luther, I’m getting there,” I say as I focus in the dark, making sure not to trip over the couch. Not far behind Luther, there is E.M. Bounds, pastor and Civil War chaplain, who habitually rose to pray from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.
“Okay, I’m on it, right Reverend.”
Then, from the shadows of my kitchen, steps forth Charles Simeon. Simeon, the English evangelical pastor of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, whose pastorate at Holy Trinity Church, (Cambridge University, England) lasted 54 years, despite some outrageous opposition, would rise at 4 a.m., even in winter, and after lighting his fire for warmth, would habitually spend the first four hours of his day in prayer. “Here was the secret of his great grace and spiritual strength,” a friend observed.
“Okay, okay, vicar,” I say, “I’m up and at ‘em.”
What to do on those occasions when I don’t feel like praying? I do the same thing as on the days when I do feel like praying.
I’ve found a way to do it; it’s been a tremendous benefit through the years. Here it is: I don’t make up my own prayers, but instead, I let the Lord pray through me. I do that on the “I can’t wait to pray” days as well as the “Is it morning, already?” days.
Just how does this work?
I pray the scriptures, for I figure if God wrote it I can turn it into prayer.
The Lord gave us a prayer just for that purpose. It’s called the “Lord’s Prayer,” but it’s really the “Disciples’ Prayer,” for he gave it to them when they asked him how to pray. It’s recorded for us in Matthew 6:9-13. It helps to read through it at least once, then read through it very slowly, making the words your own prayer. I walk through it with different Bible translations, so I won’t fall into the habit of saying it without thinking it. Breathing the words in, I give them time to settle deep down within the recesses of my soul, where life percolates.
The place in the Bible I go to the most for praying is the Book of Psalms, sometimes called the Bible’s hymnbook, but for me, it’s the Bible’s prayer book, too. I make the words my own, personalizing whatever Psalm I’m reading.
Reading through the entire Bible each year becomes much more another spiritual discipline; it feeds my soul as I pray the Scriptures.
So, I will awake early tomorrow morning, just as I did today. Maybe I’ll spring out of bed, fully rested and anxious to listen to God. Or maybe I’ll feel like plopping back down, “for just a few more minutes.” In either case, I’ll still be there, in my chair, wrapped in my warm blanket, crooking my ear in the direction of my Lord Jesus Christ, opening the book, expecting him to whisper to me, “I’ll meet you here.”
And so, I’m there, each day, waiting.
Until he arrives.