Why read A Method for Prayer?

Who is Matthew Henry?

What is the story behind this website?

Acknowledgements and a bit more background

Praise for the book and the project

Matthew Henry's original preface, "To the Reader"

Why read A Method for Prayer?

Resorting to a more scriptural pattern of prayer may be a simple (but profound) answer to many problems in our practice of prayer. There are a number of reasons that could be given as to why Christians should "Pray the Bible," but the ones below combine to make a rather convincing argument:

1 Praying scripturally will teach us what prayer is, even while we do it.
2 It will correct “shopping list” views of prayer which abound in the Christian community.
3 It will begin to solve in our own minds the question of “unanswered prayer.”
4 It will remind us of just how much there is to pray about day by day.
5 It will teach us of the extreme urgency of prayer.
6 It will return proportion to prayers long on petition, but short on adoration, confession, and thanksgiving.
7 It will instruct us how best to pray for ministers, missionaries, and one another.
8 It will show us the proper way to approach God in prayer.
9 It will remind us of the good things that God does for us (which we, more often than not, take for granted).
10 It will remind us to always give thanks to God (which, paradoxically, is so important for our own assurance of His faithfulness in answering prayer).
11 It will begin to engrave in our minds biblical patterns of thought which can help immunize us from the enticing folly of the world’s view of life.
12 It will force us to rehearse the solemn warnings and precious promises of God (which will do eternal good to our souls).
13 It will move us from our inherent man-centeredness in prayer to a biblical, God-centered way of praying.

The aim of the online publication of this “old-made-new” monograph is to assist and encourage modern Christians in both public and private prayer. Surely we all recognize that the Church of our day, at least in the West, is weak in the way of prayer. Few of us, perhaps, understand what prayer really is. We do not pray often. We do not pray with scriptural proportion, nor does our prayer much reflect the language and thought of the Bible. We do not pray fervently. Although we claim otherwise, maybe we really do not believe in prayer!

For those who are called upon to lead the Church in public prayer, or who simply desire to be more faithful and competent in their own private petitions, a scriptural manner of praying provides the order, proportion, and variety which should characterize all our prayers. We have aimed to provide users with a number of helps to assist in achieving this end. The core of the website is the entire text of Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer. Reading and re-reading through it will train the Christian in the use of biblical truth and language in prayer.

Who is Matthew Henry?

Matthew Henry (1662-1714), beloved commentator on the Scriptures, was born near Whitchurch (Salop), England. [For those unfamiliar with English geography, Whitchurch (Salop) is about 18 miles south, southeast of Chester, not too far from the border with Wales, and located in the area today known as Shropshire.] He began preaching at the age of 23 and spent most of his ministry as pastor of a church in Chester (1687-1712). He was a prolific writer, most famous for his Commentary on the Whole Bible which he began in November of 1704 and left incomplete upon his death. Ministerial colleagues concluded the work with reference to his notes and writings (Henry had finished the commentary from Genesis through Acts).

Throughout his life as a minister, Henry was a diligent student of the Word, sometimes rising as early as 4 o’clock in the morning and often spending 8 hours a day in his study in addition to his pastoral labors. He was also, however, a man of prayer. His lifelong concern for prayer is said to have originated with his recovery from a potentially terminal illness at the age of 10. Whatever the case, the whole of his labors is marked by the wisdom which only those who are habitually dependent upon the Almighty in prayer may hope to attain.

Henry completed a book on prayer in March of 1712, just two months before leaving Chester (where he had served for 25 years) to pastor a church in London. Hence, it reflects a lifetime of prayer, ministry, and Christian experience. Its full title was A Method for Prayer with Scripture Expressions proper to be used under each head. In it, Henry lays down an outline of a plan for prayer (Adoration, Confession, Petition, Thanksgiving, Intercession, and Conclusion) and supplies the contents of prayer from the Scriptures themselves.

What is the story behind this website?

The editor’s acquaintance with Matthew Henry’s book on prayer dates to a suggestion of one of his seminary professors, O. Palmer Robertson. Some of the students, appreciative of Dr. Robertson’s peculiar power in public prayer, inquired as to what he would suggest to us for becoming more proficient in leading in congregational prayer. Beside the cultivation of the habit of regular private prayer, he recommended one book: Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer.

As for the idea of updating the book into more contemporary versions of the Bible, this thought had flitted around in my head for a number of years. It began to blossom into reality in May 2008, when I was contacted by Dan Arnold, a Christian businessman and gifted entrepreneur who had been greatly encouraged and helped by an edition of Henry's book that I had revised and edited back in 1994. Dan and I had a wonderfully encouraging phone conversation. Eager to make Henry's classic book on prayer accessible to as many people as possible, Dan also wanted to produce updated versions of the book. Furthermore, he desired to fund and direct the production of a website devoted to the book and to have it translated into multiple foreign languages.

Facilitating the project through the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals -- a kingdom-minded, non-profit organization which, not only helped produce this website, but stands committed to helping maintain and improve it -- this vision to make Matthew Henry's book available in updated language online has, in the gracious providence of God, come to pass! May God get all the glory for bringing this idea into concrete reality, and may you be blessed by this extraordinary book!

J. Ligon Duncan III

Jackson, Mississippi

July 2009