Sunday, January 18, 2009

Private Prayer

It probably seems contradictory to write a public post about private prayer, but I'm reading a Puritan classic by Thomas Brooks (called "The Secret Key to Heaven: The Vital Importance of Private Prayer") that is teaching me so very much in this area and I want to share some of the highlights here. Brooks lays out a phenomenal case for not only the necessity but the blessing of spending time in one's closet, engaged in private prayer with the Father.

Pointing to Matt. 6:6, he writes:

In the text, "But thou, when thou prayest", He does not say, when you [plural] pray, but thou, as speaking not so much of a joint duty of many praying together, as of a duty which each person is to do alone. The command in the text sends us to the closet [as well as] to the church. He is a real hypocrite that chooses the one and neglects the other; for thereby he tells the world that he cares for neither. He that puts on a religious habit abroad to gain himself a great name among men, and at the same time lives like an atheist at home, shall at the last be uncovered by God, and presented before all the world for a most outrageous hypocrite.
Heavy stuff, that.

Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus stealing away for private moments with His Father. Brooks points to Christ as an example for us in spending much time in private prayer:
Christ is a pattern of patterns; His example should be to us instead of a thousand examples. It is not only our liberty, but our duty and glory, to follow Christ... Other patterns are imperfect and defective, but Christ is a perfect pattern; and of all His children, they are the happiest that come nearest to this perfect pattern.
Brooks lays out a point-by-point case for why Christians should be utterly dependent upon and defined by their closet prayer time with the Father. Some of the reasons that he offers that really resonate with me and motivate me are these:
#4- Secret prayer lets us unbosom ourselves before God. In secret we may more freely and fully, and safely unbosom ours souls to God than we can in the presence of many or a few. ... In secret, a Christian may descend into such particulars, as in public or before others he will not, he may not, he ought not, to mention. Ah! how many Christians are there who would blush and be ashamed to walk in the streets, and to converse with sinners or saints, should but those infirmities, enormities, and wickednesses be written in their foreheads or known to others, which they freely and fully lay open to God in secret.

#6- God most manifests Himself in secret. [Brooks lays out many examples from Scripture and then writes:] Private prayer is a golden key to unlock the mysteries of the Word to us. The knowledge of many choice and blessed truths is but the outcome of private prayer. ... Certainly that Christian or that minister that in private prayer lies most at the feet of Jesus Christ, he shall understand most...

... A husband imparts his mind most freely and fully to his wife when she is alone... Wise men give their best, their choicest, and their richest gifts in secret; and so does Christ give to his the best of the best, when they are in a corner, when they are all alone.

... But as for such as cannot spare time to seek God in a closet, to serve Him in secret, they sufficiently show that they have little fellowship or friendship with God, whom they so seldom come to.
That last sentence is so convicting and illuminating, isn't it? I confess that I am guilty as charged... I have not consistently made private fellowship with my Heavenly Father and Friend a priority as it ought to have been. I am striving to be more faithful to spend time in closet prayer to the Father, as I have been convicted by Brooks' words, and even more by his right division of God's Word as he presents his case.

I have more to share, and I will do so soon, but wanted to get these thoughts out this morning. Hopefully it will challenge and convict others as it has done and is doing in my own heart.

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