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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

How to Pray: The Morning Watch

by Marilynn Chadwick

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2 NIV)

Why pray? I can think of lots of good reasons. Prayer helps us stay connected to God. It’s how we get to know him, enjoy his presence, and answer his call. Renowned nineteenth century theologian, R. A. Torrey, in his short but power packed little book, How to Pray, addresses this question. “Why is this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer so needful?” His answer? “There is a devil.” 

Our enemy never rests, and continually looks for ways to ensnare the children of God. He’s always ready to devour the unsuspecting. Therefore, writes the Apostle Peter, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). Similarly, John Wesley encouraged his early followers to be alert and practice what he called “the discipline of watching.” 

If you want to learn how to pray with power, it’s vital to remain alert to God's voice. It’s also important to carve out a time and a place to listen to God on a daily basis. The more time we spend with the Lord, the more easily we can recognize his voice. When my husband David calls me on the phone, I don’t have to ask who it is. I recognize his voice because I’ve spent so much time with him. 

In 1812 on the campus of Cambridge University, a small group of students took seriously their call to be alert and watchful for prayer. They came up with a strategy they called “the morning watch.” These students, who came to be later known as the “Cambridge Seven,” committed to spend their first minutes of each day in Bible Study and prayer. 

The idea caught fire. A remarkable period of revival on the Cambridge campus followed. The Cambridge Seven, all prominent athletes and men of wealth and education, gave up everything to leave England and go to China for Christ. This resulted in the stunning sweep of the Gospel across a land that knew very little of Jesus. Today, the underground church in China, by some counts numbering 100 million, owes its very existence to the Cambridge Seven and others who dared to devote themselves to prayer, to keeping watch and to listening to God’s voice. 

God’s Word promises “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV). Moreover, James reminds us Elijah was “human just like us.” Like Elijah, we can train our heart to hear God's voice—not always easy in our busy, noisy world. But Elijah heard the still, small voice of God. “After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 CSB). 

Remember, there’s no limit to what God will do through even one person who is willing to carve out time early and faithfully for prayer—would you dare to commit to your own morning watch?


R.A. Torrey, How to Pray. Chicago: Moody Classics (New Edition: 2007), p. 8

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