*Early Morning Prayer
Early will I seek You.
Psalm 63:1 NKJV
How do you begin your day? The generality of Christians, if they are not obliged to work for their living, rise at eight or nine in the morning after eight, nine, or more hours of sleep. I do not say (as I was apt to do fifty years ago) all who do this are in the way to hell. But neither can I say they are in the way to heaven, denying themselves and taking up their cross daily. From more than sixty years observation, I can say that men in health require an average of six to seven hours of sleep and healthy women from seven to eight each twenty-four hours. This quantity of sleep is advantageous to body and soul, preferable to any medication I have known, both for preventing and removing nervous disorders. In defiance of fashion and custom, it is, therefore, the most excellent way to take just so much sleep as experience proves our nature to require. It is indisputably most conducive both to bodily and spiritual health.
And why should you not? Because it is difficult? True; with men it is impossible. But all things are possible with God: and by His grace, all things will be possible to you. Only be instant in prayer and it will be not only possible, but easy. And it is far easier to rise early always than only sometimes. Just begin at the right end: To rise early, you must sleep early. Then the difficulty will ease. Its advantage will remain forever.
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
John Wesley, in this eighth lesson on prayer, is advocating rising early in the morning to spend time with the Lord. And not only that but aligning your sleep pattern so that early rising becomes the norm.
It is important to note what kind of schedule Wesley himself kept. Wesley began a rigorous schedule while teaching at Oxford and leader of the “Holy Club.” Wesley’s day started at 4am to 5am in private prayer, 5-7am in Bible Study, 8-9am Group Prayer, Noon to 4pm Bible Study again, 4-5pm Public Prayer, 5-6pm Private Prayer, and from 6-7pm he shared his faith with those who did not know Christ. At 8pm he met for accountability and then journaled everything that happened that day. 10pm, he in the bed.
For much of his later ministry he would preach his first sermon of the day at 5 A.M. and a second at 8 A.M., with additional preaching in the afternoon and meetings in the evening. According to published reports, Wesley traveled near 250,000 miles on horseback and preached over 40,000 sermons, besides his organizing and publishing ventures. A man can hardly do this with time left over, but Wesley managed it with time for ample sleep and remained healthy to the end of his life at age 88. When he died, Wesley left 72,000 Methodists in Great Britain and Ireland, and 57,000 in the early Methodist denomination in America.
We know scripturally there is a mandate to rise early to seek the Lord. Many scriptures show that those who had important business to do, got up early to start their day. Mark 1:35 tells of Jesus, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” In considering the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, one can get tired just in the reading. Jesus had important business to do and needed that time with the Father to gain direction for the new day. So do we.
I know that times are different now and we can not take a blanket statement like, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and apply Mr. Franklin’s idiom to all situations. We now live and work in a 24/7 world. But looking over the accomplishments of many great men and women can only lead one to believe that the management of time is an important element in completing the tasks before us. And prayer is important if we are to be those who have “chosen the good part” (Luke 10:42 NASB), as Mary of Bethany did; that thing that cannot be taken away. And I consider this to be a main element of Wesley’s life, ministry, and exhortation.