George Muller, May 9, 1841
Adapted by Lavern Gingerich
It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth that has benefited me for more than fourteen years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever before that the first thing I should do every day was to get my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord or how I might glorify the Lord; but rather how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I could attempt to set the truth before the unconverted, to benefit believers, to relieve the distressed, or to behave myself in other ways as a child of God in this world should; yet I might do all this in a wrong spirit if not happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day.
For at least ten years before this, my habit was to pray after dressing in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing for me to do was to read the Word of God and to meditate on it, so that my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed; and that, while meditating on the Word of God, my heart might commune with the Lord.
Strength From Each Bite
So I began to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. After asking the Lord's blessing upon His precious Word, I would meditate on the Word of God, searching into every verse to get blessing out of it, not for the public ministry of the Word, not for preaching what I had meditated upon, but to obtain food for my own soul.
I have found that almost always, after only a few minutes, my soul is led to confession, thanksgiving, intercession, or supplication. I begin in meditation, yet it turns almost immediately into prayer. After spending some time in prayer, I go to the next words, turning them into prayer for myself or others, as the Word leads, yet remembering that I am meditating to get food for my own soul. As a result, there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, intercession, or supplication mingled with my meditation. By this, my inner man is usually nourished and strengthened, and by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful, if not happy, state of heart.
Also I have found that the things the Lord gives me as food for my soul, often become food for other believers even though I did not meditate for the sake of others, but for my own inner man.
The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this: Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally prayed until breakfast. Most times I began with prayer, except when I felt my soul was barren, in which cases I read the Word of God for food and refreshment, and for renewal of my inner man before I prayed. But what was the result? I often spent fifteen to thirty minutes, or even an hour, on my knees, before knowingly receiving comfort, encouragement, and humbling of soul. Often my mind wandered for quite some time before I really began to pray.
I rarely struggle with this anymore because my heart is first nourished by the truth and brought into personal fellowship with God before I speak to my Father and Friend (though I am vile and unworthy of it) about the things He has shown me in His precious Word.
Daily Soul Food
Looking back, it often astonishes me that I did not see this point sooner. I never read about it in any book. No public ministry ever taught me this. No conversation with a brother ever inspired me in this direction. Yet since God has taught me this lesson, it is as plain to me as anything, that first of all every morning, the child of God has to obtain food for his inner man. Just as your physical body takes in food in the morning because it needs food to stay alive, so each of us must take in food for their inner man.
What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God. Here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, as water runs through a pipe, but meditating on it-considering what we read, pondering it, and applying it to our hearts.
When we pray, we speak to God. And in order to pray for any length of time, we must have at least a small amount of godly desire. And the best time to pray is after our inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us to encourage us, comfort us, instruct us, humble us, and reprove us. Therefore, we may profitably meditate with God's blessing though we are weak spiritually. In fact, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation to strengthen our inner man.
If you take time for meditation before praying, it will be much easier to stay focused. I am emphasizing this point because of the great spiritual profit and refreshment I have received from it myself. By applying myself to this practice, God has given me help and strength to peacefully go through greater trials than I had ever known before.
I affectionately and solemnly urge all my fellow believers to ponder this matter. After having tried this way for over fourteen years, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it.
In addition to this, I generally read larger portions of the Bible after family prayer. During this time I pursue my practice of regular reading in the Holy Scriptures, sometimes in the New Testament and sometimes in the Old, and for more than twenty-six years I have proved the blessedness of it. I also take time for prayer either then or in other parts of the day.
How different it is, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when the service, trials, and temptations of the day come upon one without spiritual preparation.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon