Matthew Henry (1662-1714) was born near Whitchurch (Salop), England. He began preaching at the age of 23 and spent most of his ministry was 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. 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.
Before reading this prayer, I will share some information about Matthew Henry that will make it all the more weighty for you. He writes from deep personal grief in this matter. His first wife Katherine died in child-birth in 1689 after only two years of marriage, and although he remarried in 1690, he and his second wife, Mary, lost three children in infancy in the following seven years. Henry refused to blame God for these losses, for he accepted that, “the Lord is righteous, He takes and gives, and gives and takes again.” Nor did he allow his sorrows to hinder his work since he believed, “weeping must not prevent sowing,” and so he went on with perseverance and assurance. So he maintained his intensive preaching and pastoral ministry through this time when his personal life was afflicted by tragedy. It would be good for us to emulate such a man of faith!
O Lord our God, the God of the spirits of all flesh! All souls are thine, the souls of the parents and the souls of the children are thine, and thou hast grace sufficient for both. Thou wast our fathers’ God, and as such we will exalt thee; thou art our children’s God, and also we will plead with thee, for the promises to us and our children; and thou art a God in covenant with believers and their seed. Lord, it is thy good providence that hath built us up into a family: We thank thee for the children thou hast graciously given thy servants; the Lord, who has blessed us with them, make them blessings indeed to us, that we may never be tempted to wish we had been childless. We lament the iniquity which our children are conceived and born in, and that corrupt nature which they derive through our loins. But we bless thee that there is a fountain opened for their cleansing from that original pollution, and that they were betimes* dedicated to thee and that they are born in thy house. It is a comfort to us to think that they are dedicated, and we humbly desire to plead it with thee. They are thine; save them; enable them, as they become capable, to make it their own act and deed, to join themselves unto the Lord, that they may be owned as thine in that day when thou makest up thy jewels.
Give them a good capacity of mind and a good disposition, make them towardly** and tractable** and willing to receive instruction; incline them betimes* to religion and virtue [true Christianity]. Lord, give them wisdom and understanding, and drive out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts. Save them from the vanity which childhood and youth are subject to, and fit them every way to live comfortably and usefully in this world. We ask not for great things in this world for them; give them, if it please thee, a strong and healthy constitution of body, preserve them from all ill accidents, and feed them with food convenient [fitting] for them, according to their rank. But the chief thing we ask of God for them is that thou wilt pour thy Spirit upon our seed, even thy blessing, that blessing of blessings, upon our offspring, that they may be a seed to serve thee, which shall be accounted unto the Lord for a generation: Give them that good part [one thing needful] which never shall be taken away from them.
Give us wisdom and grace to bring them up in thy fear, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, with meekness and tenderness, and having them in subjection with all gravity. Teach us how to teach them the things of God as they are able to bear them, and how to reprove and admonish, and when there is need, to correct them in a right manner, and how to set them good examples of everything that is virtuous and praiseworthy, that we may recommend religion [Christianity] to them, and so train them up in the way wherein they should go, that if they live to be old, they may not depart from it.
Keep them from the snare of evil company and all the temptations to which they are exposed, and make them betimes* sensible how much it is their interest, as well as their duty, to be religious[a Christian]; and, Lord, grant that none who come of us may come short of eternal life or be found on the left hand of Christ in the great day.
We earnestly pray that Christ may be formed in their souls betimes*, and that the seeds of grace may be sown in their hearts while they are young, and we may have the satisfaction of seeing them walking in the truth and setting their faces heavenwards. Give them now to hear counsel and receive instruction, that they may be wise in their latter end; and if they be wise, our hearts shall rejoice, even ours.
Prosper the means of their education; let our children be taught of the Lord, that great may be their peace: And give them so to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent, as may be life eternal to them.
O that they may betimes* get wisdom and get understanding and never forget it. As far as they are taught the truth as it is in Jesus, give them to continue in the things which they have learned.
It is our heart’s desire and prayer that our children may be praising God on earth when we are gone to praise him in heaven, and that we and they may be together forever, serving him day and night in his temple.
If it should please Thee, God to remove any of them from us while they are young, let us have grace submissively to resign them to thee, and let us have hope in their death. If thou remove us from them while they are young, be thou thyself a Father to them, to teach them and provide for them, for with thee the fatherless findeth mercy. Thou knowest our care concerning them, we cast it upon thee; ourselves and ours we commit to thee. Let not the light of our family religion be put out with us, nor that treasure be buried in our graves, but let those that come after us do thee more and better service in their day than we have done in ours, and be unto thee for a name and a praise.
In these prayers we aim at thy glory. Father, let thy name be sanctified in our family, there let thy kingdom come and thy will be done by us and ours, as it is done by the angels in heaven; for Christ Jesus’ sake, our blessed Saviour and Redeemer, whose seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. Now to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that great and sacred name, into which we and our children were dedicated, behonour and glory, dominion and praise, henceforth and forever. Amen.
Provided by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals © Copyright 2009 – Dan Arnold and Ligon Duncan. *betimes=early on **towardly=of a good disposition ***tractable=teachable
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of thenineteenth century. Spurgeon preached in London, England to audiences numbering more than 10,000—all in thedays before electronic amplification. His success and worldwide popularity were due in large measure to a genius intellect, natural gift of oratory, and thoroughly biblical expository messages. At age 20, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon became pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Church. In addition to preaching, he was also a pioneer in many missionary, evangelistic, and benevolent efforts. Spurgeon founded a Pastor’s college, orphanages, a home for the elderly, schools for poor children, and numerous mission chapels. Spurgeon’s many writings and sermons are still widely published today.
Mark 9:19 “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
Despairingly the poor disappointed father turned away from the disciples to their Master. His son was in the worst possible condition, and all means had failed, but the miserable child was soon delivered from the evil one when the parent in faith obeyed the Lord Jesus’ word, “Bring him unto me.”
Children are a precious gift from God, but much anxiety comes with them. They may be a great joy or a great bitterness to their parents; they may be filled with the Spirit of God, or possessed with the spirit of evil. In all cases, the Word of God gives us one receipt for the curing of all their ills, “Bring him unto me.” O for more agonizing prayer on their behalf while they are yet babes! Sin is there, let our prayers begin to attack it. Our cries for our offspring should precede those cries which betoken their actual advent into a world of sin. In the days of their youth we shall see sad tokens of that dumb and deaf spirit which will neither pray aright, nor hear the voice of God in the soul, but Jesus still commands, “Bring them unto me.” When they are grown up they may wallow in sin and foam with enmity against God; then when our hearts are breaking we should remember the great Physician’s words, “Bring them unto me.” Never must we cease to pray until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless while Jesus lives.
The Lord sometimes suffers his people to be driven into a corner that they may experimentally know how necessary he is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts, drive us to flee to the strong for strength, and this is a great blessing to us.