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.

9 comments:

Monica said...

I, too, am convicted by this. I have a strong desire to grow in my prayer life. This looks and sounds like a great book to pursue that desire. Thank you for the highlights!

Stacy said...

Color me convicted...for the umpteenth time recently.

Christine said...

Private prayer is such a blessing; I need to make it much more of a priority.

ourcrazyfarm said...

Thanks again for the conviction! It's easy to make excuses with having small children, etc, but ultimately there is no excuse. I appreciate you sharing what God is doing in your life.
Also, I am passing along a blog award, the Lemonade Award, for your blog that is always full of gratitude (to God) and a great encouraging attitude to all us ladies. Several times your words have been repeated in my life, in regards to self struggles and attitudes with family and husband. You can pass the award along to others if you like. Thanks! Terri
the award is at http:www.ourcrazyfarm.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, private prayer makes a huge difference in my life! But I do it differently than how my Grandma taught me. Grandma taught me to bless all my loved ones each night before bed, and of course, I still do. The new part is that I also just allow myself to be still and quiet. I listen. I listen to my feelings, my thoughts, or perhaps just the sound of the wind. I find that uncontrolled, receptive time is just as special and connecting. It can be, but doesn't have to be, scripted or formal.

Amy

Mrs. Lindblom said...

Yes, ma'am... I think this is something everyone needs to be reminded of. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

There is a famous story about a rabbi/teacher whose students asked for a blessing when he was dying. He said he would pray that they would fear God as much as they feared men.

The students were surprised: "Only that much?"

The rabbi explained that many times we make sure no one is looking when we are about to do something sinful. If only people were as worried about doing those things while only God was watching...

Laurie B

Jess said...

Amy,
I appreciate you sharing how your grandma taught you.

However, blessing others is only one portion of prayer. Indeed, Christ used prayer to pray for the needs of others.

And listening to our own feelings, thoughts, or the sound of the wind are not biblical ideas at all. We spend all day in this self-saturated culture "listening" to our own feelings and thoughts. The Bible tells us that the human heart is deceitfully wicked and that none can know it. God alone knows our hearts (infinitely more deeply and precisely than we ever could), which is why we take our perceived needs/desires to Him and say, "nevertheless, your will be done". Because He knows better than us.

I'm not picking on you, Amy... rather, I (and the Bible) just fundamentally disagree with this modern notion that we need to get more in touch with ourselves. Oprah apparently said this year that she was making a resolution to have "Just a Closer Walk With ME" (meaning herself). This is not the aim of someone striving to follow after Christ. Jesus consistently wanted to get "in touch with" the Father... He wanted to serve others. While we do see Him steal away occasionally for solitude, we see again and again that He was not taking "me time". He wasn't just getting in touch with Himself (even though He was GOD... and had every "right" to just get in touch with Himself, right?)... He spent time with the Father. Pouring out His heart. Being ministered to by the One who knows the human heart.

I'd encourage you, Amy, and anyone else who might be caught up in these sorts of prayers, to look to the Bible as your standard in this area. Look to Jesus... He laid out an example for us that is clear and compelling.

~Jess

Susanna said...

It is so good to see you quote from a puritan writer. They knew what they were talking about, and we all need some hard hitting truths at time. So often they are maligned as too wordy or not applicable to today- mostly I think because we all prefer the softly softly approach that does not leave us feeling convicted. So thank you

I am as guilty as the next person. I am ashamed when I think about how many people used to pray for my salvation....and how often I forget to pray for others salvation. We praise and worship God through prayer, we thank Him, we interceed for others, we bring our struggles and burdens and find peace and forgiveness at the foot of the cross- and we do it all in the name of our precious Saviour- OH what a blessing prayer is- what a wonderul gift of communion with God.