Among all of the Bible’s teaching on meditation and prayer, God never commands us to meet with him in the morning. He never tells us that the first hour of the day is an especially sacred time to commune with him, nor does he suggest that he’s any less near to us in the afternoon and evening.
Some godly saints, in fact, find that late night rather than early morning offers the most undistracted hours for meditation and prayer. Others manage (I know not how) to carve out quiet moments in the middle of the day.
Nevertheless, the testimony of God’s people in Scripture and church history suggests that morning is, far and away, the best time for most of us to meet with God. Before the day’s tasks demand to be done, before the headlines bring the world into our living rooms, before our phones beg for our attention, and before the air around us starts humming with activity, we desperately need to hear from God. We need the first voice of the day to be his.
The morning, more than any other time of day, invites us to give God our firstfruits, roll away our burdens, hear his teaching, and enjoy his love.
Give Your Firstfruits
If you lived near the Jerusalem temple under the old covenant, you would have awoken not only to the crowing of roosters, but to the singing of Levites. “They were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening” (1 Chronicles 23:30). Along with a song of praise, the sons of Levi would welcome the dawn with a sacrificed lamb and fragrant incense (Exodus 29:39; 30:7), thus giving to God the firstfruits of the day.
Although we do not wake up to Israel’s temple singers, God has not left himself without a witness to his worth at the start of every day. Charles Spurgeon once preached, “The early morning hour should be dedicated to praise: do not the birds set us an example?” And not only the birds: for those with ears to hear, God makes the very “going out of the morning . . . to shout for joy” (Psalm 65:8). What do our mornings sound like?
Sun and clouds, birds and dew all gather morning by morning to remind us, “Yours is the day” (Psalm 74:16). What better way to start our own days, then, than by giving God the first of our time and attention?
Roll Your Burdens
Someone once asked George Müller, the nineteenth-century lover of orphans, how he could remain so composed in the midst of such frenzy. Thousands of children depended on him for food and clothing, and resources were often scarce, yet his soul seemed as calm as the sea that Jesus stilled. Müller responded with something like, “I rolled sixty things onto the Lord this morning” (The Satisfied Soul, 308).
Desperation has a way of waking us up early. As with Müller, the author of Psalm 119 found that his needs were too great to wait until midday, or even until sunrise: “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words” (Psalm 119:147; see also 88:13).
Even outside seasons of desperation, however, what better time than the morning to reach ahead into the day, gather up every burden and care, and roll them, one by one, into our Father’s open hands? As often as we cry, “O Lord, be gracious to us. . . . Be our arm every morning,” God is ready to respond, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 33:2; 41:10).
Hear His Teaching
The prophet Isaiah, speaking as the servant of the Lord, said,
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
he awakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4)
When the greater Servant came, we find him doing the same: “Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Before our Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples or to the crowds, he came to his Father, morning by morning, to hear as those who are taught (John 5:19).
What could be more important in the morning than sitting before our Father, his word open in front of us, and asking him to teach us “how [we] ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1)? John Piper writes of our morning routines,
What we want . . . is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We want something that gives us a zeal for the glory of Christ for the day’s work. We want to be strengthened to face whatever the day may bring. We want something that gives us joyful courage to resolve to count others better than ourselves.
This is what we want, isn’t it? And what better way to walk in God’s ways day by day than by asking him to lead us morning by morning?
Enjoy His Love
On February 23, 1834, the 20-year-old Robert Murray McCheyne wrote in his journal, “Rose early to seek God and found him whom my soul loveth. Who would not rise early to meet such company?” McCheyne strikes at the heart of why anyone should go through the trouble of getting to bed on time, setting the alarm early, and refusing the snooze: not ultimately to stick your face in book, but to meet the lover of your soul. Not for the activity itself, but for the company.
The psalmists thought the same way. David sings, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust” (Psalm 143:8). Moses prays, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). It is a miserable experience to walk into the day unsure of God’s love, wondering whether his heart toward us is warm or cold. Yet many of us do wake up unsure, needing to hear of his love and be satisfied by his love again.
The God who knows our frame, who remembers that we are dust, is always glad to remind us. He is always ready to steady our fragile hearts, and help us not only receive his love, but to walk into the day declaring it: “It is good . . . to declare in the morning your steadfast love” (Psalm 92:1–2).
The Day’s First Voice
Some of us, perhaps, are among the saints who benefit most from an evening or midday devotional time rather than a morning one. But many of the rest of us can resonate with C.S. Lewis when he writes of what happens “the very moment you wake up each morning.”
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. (Mere Christianity, 198)
Before we have even turned off the alarm clock, many of us are living a few hours in the future: crafting plans, shouldering worries, cherishing hopes for the day ahead. But often, these plans, worries, and hopes have little to do with God.
Why not, then, meditate on God’s word to take that other, heavenly point of view? Why not open up your soul to let that larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in from the Spirit? Why not let the first voice be his?