Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Thoughts on Private Prayer

No subject this year has more consumed my mind or sobered my heart than this idea of increasing my fervor and frequency in private prayer. I confess openly that I have not walked faithfully in this, though I long to be a woman of fervent, effective prayer. Though my time in the prayer closet has increased and I continue to find great depth of joy in it, my self-discipline is weak in this area.

So, please know that though I'm sharing these deep things that I'm reading and learning, it's not because I've hit the mark... but rather, because it's worthwhile to talk about these things with you lovely people. Pray for me, if you will, that I might so desire to know and honor Him that I would spend time with Him in private prayer, with both great delight and great discipline.


When we cry out in prayer, God Himself-- Creator, Sustainer, Life-giver, Life-taker-- puts Himself within range of our voice. He does so not only in a way that is glorious and mighty (though He certainly is) but also in a way that is humble and truly offers us an inheritance and relationship beyond what we could ever dream. Thomas Brooks illuminates this characteristic of our Lord in the context of His wrestlings with Jacob, how He wrestled and because Jacob clung to him, found blessing and was forever changed by the Lord. He wrote of it this way:

When lovers wrestle, the strongest is willing enough to take a fall from the weakest; and so it was here. The father, in wrestling with his child, is willing enough, for his child's comfort and encouragement, to take a fall now and then; and so it was between the angel and Jacob in the present case. Now in this blessed story, you may see the great power and prevalency of private prayer; it conquers the great conqueror...
Is our Father limited or somehow held captive by our prayers? Not in the slightest! But is He moved by them? Does He sometimes relent out of love? Mysteriously, it seems so. Why, then, do we not pound the door of Heaven day and night? The God of Heaven hears!

Sadly, our lack of desire and our lack of discipline keeps us from regular, deep communion with the Father.

And here, Brooks encourages us to bring our tears and hurts before the One who sits on the throne of grace. Looking at examples like David (as in Psalm 6:6-8) and Peter (Matt. 26:75), he writes, "prayers and tears are not only very pleasing to God, but also very prevalent with God."

Bellarmine offered this commendation towards bringing one's tears as prayers before God's throne:
"Cry aloud, not with your tongue, but with your eyes; not with your words, but with your tears; for that is the prayer that makes the most forcible entry into the ears of the great God of heaven."
Brooks reminds us that a discerning father can know the heart of his child if he listens to that child's fervent tears. The sorrows of a child, whether right or wrong, or for good or ill reasons, are often accurate indicators of the state of the heart. And they tug on the heart of the loving parent. So, too, our loving Father ought to be the One to whom we bring our deepest sufferings and sorrows. When things are troublesome, as they so often are in this life as strangers and aliens to the world around us, it is then that we should look to our Father who knows and sees all things-- even the things done in secret-- and unburden ourselves before Him.


Another motivation, Brooks writes, is that "you are the only persons in all the world that God has made choice of to reveal his secrets to." Disciples of Christ are those to whom, in John 15:15, Christ promises to reveal the things of the Father.

He continues,
[Christ] cannot but open and unburden his heart to all his dearest friends. To be reserved and close is against the very law of friendship. Faithful friends are free in imparting their thoughts, their minds, their secrets, one to another.

... Though the devil be the greatest scholar in the world, and though he has more learning than all the men in the world have, yet there are many thousands of secrets and mysteries in the gospel of grace, that he doesn't know...
Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23)

So we come to this-- we have an offer from the Almighty to come and abide with us, to hear our cries and our longings, and to not only show compassion but also to act... it is then up to us to respond to that, not as a rebellious son who runs from His Father's offer of abundance and relationship... but as loving children who run into the arms of the Father and abide *with* Him.

Private prayer offers us the opportunity to do that very thing... and I'm sharing here that I want this, but I am not a a faithful practictioner of it. I long to be, and yet I fall short. And I don't really know what else to write except that I am pressing on, striving, and trust that He will continue drawing me to Himself and teaching me more in this area. And I hope that this somehow encourages you to draw near to the Father as well.


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