The puritan commentator Matthew Henry is best known for his commentary on the Bible. However, he wrote a wonderful book on prayer as well, which he believed was absolutely essential to being a Christian. He explains, “Not that God needs to be particularly informed of our condition, he knows it better than we ourselves do, and our souls too in our adversity; but it is his will that we should thus acknowledge him in all our ways Proverbs 3:6 and wait upon him for the direction of every step, Psalm 37:23 not prescribing, but subscribing to infinite wisdom, humbly showing him our wants, burdens, and desires, and then referring ourselves to him, to do for us as he thinks fit..” (chapter eight)
This book of prayer is on line and put in a wonderful format for us to take advantage of. Matthew Henry includes some short sections that may help his readers pray on certain occasions. In Henry’s section on forms for praying for and with the sick, he includes examples of what to pray at the beginning of an illness, for ongoing illnesses, and for illnesses that do not seem to be leading to immediate death. All three are immediately applicable for us today in light of the ongoing pandemic (as well as all those already suffering with other ailments and diseases). These prayers highlight the fact that God is in control of sickness and uses it for good, which Henry often identifies as growing in sanctification: (remember, he lived in the 1600's, so his language isn't ours, but you get his point)
(If it be the beginning of an illness)
Lord, set bounds to this sickness, and say, Hitherto it shall come, and no further: Let it not prevail to extremity, but in measure when it shooteth forth do thou debate, and stay thy rough wind in the day of thine east wind; and by this let iniquity be purged, and let this be all the fruit, even the taking away of sin. Job 38:11. Isaiah 27:8, 9.
(If it has continued for a long time)
Lord, let patience have its perfect work, even unto long-suffering, that those who have been long in the furnace may continue hoping and quietly waiting for the salvation of the Lord: Let tribulation work patience, and patience experience, and experience a hope that maketh not ashamed; and enable them to call even this affliction light and but for a moment, seeing it to work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. James 1:4. Lamentations 3:26. Romans 5:3, 4, 5. 2 Corinthians 4:17.
(If there is hope of recovery)
Lord, when thou hast tried them let them come forth like gold; Let their souls live, and they shall praise thee, let thy judgments help them: O deal bountifully with them that they may live, and keep thy word. In love to their souls deliver them from the pit of corruption, and cast all their sins behind thy back. Recover them, and make them to live. Speak the word, and they shall be healed; say unto them, Live, yea, say unto them, Live, and the time shall be a time of love. Father, if it be possible, let the cup pass away; however not as we will, but as thou wilt: The will of the Lord be done. Perfect that which concerns them; thy mercy, O Lord, endures for ever, forsake not the work of thine own hands; but whether they live or die, let them be the Lord’s. Job 23:10. Psalm 119:175, 17. Isaiah 38:17, 16. Matthew 8:8. Ezekiel 16:6, 8. Matthew 26:39. Acts 21:14. Psalm 138:8. Romans 14:8.