Martin Luther is known for this quote:'If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.'
The content of this daily discipline led Luther through the Lord's Prayer, the 10 commandments and the creeds. Praying morning and evening. Using them as a launch pad to pray for his own heart and for the world around him.
In England soon after, Cranmer's prayer book became established- giving believers prayers every day and teaching from the scriptures. Taking them through the seasons of the year in the hope that this mix of scripture and prayer would create a rhythm of growing maturity in the infant English church.
John Welch, 1568-1622 the wonderful Scottish preacher thought the day ill spent if he did not spend eight or ten hours a day in prayer. He kept a blanket by the bed to wrap himself up when he arose to pray at night. His wife would complain when she found him lying on the ground weeping. He would reply, 'O Woman, I have the souls of three thousand to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!'
Archbishop Leighton 1611-1684 was so much alone with God that he seemed to be in a perpetual meditation. A biographer said of Leighton, 'Prayer and praise were his business and his pleasure. He was with God before the clock struck three every morning.'
Joseph Alleine 1634-1668 arose at four praying until eight. If he heard other tradesmen plying their business before he was up, he would exclaim, 'O how this shames me! Does not my master deserve more than theirs?'
Famously at the start of the Great Awakening, inspired by the Moravians and their 100 years prayer movement, John Wesley gathered with friends to pray through the night of 1 Jan 1739.
'At about 3 in the morning as we were continuing constant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground.'
Wesley later said, 'Every Christian needs half an hour to pray every day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour'. This from the man who rose at 4am most mornings to travel on horseback to the next place and preached 40,000 sermons, roughly 15 per week through his adult life - notwithstanding his writing of books, letters and pamphlets!
'He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him come out of his (prayer) closet with a serenity of face next to shining.' God does nothing, accept in answer to prayer.
Charles Simeon 1739-1836 devoted the hours from four until eight in the morning to God.
Bishop Asbury 1745-1816 said, 'I propose to rise at four as often as I can and spend two hours in prayer and meditation'.
E M Bounds wrote these words over one hundred years ago to another generation, but he speaks with prophetic insight to our day when he concludes: 'This however, is not a day of prayer. Few men there are who pray......in these days of hurry and bustle, of electricity and steam, men will not take time to pray.'
The days of steam seem slow in comparison to the acceleration of the pace of life in our generation. Our hurry and bustle continue unabated. Will we be those who heed Bounds call to prayer? Can we afford not to?