« PreviousContinue »
all things. We acknowledge not only his general providence, as taking care of communities; but his particular providence, as watching over us individually. We express our faith in his presence, his power, and his love.
The Christian can also in secret give free vent to every desire ; vary his request according to the present state of his mind, or the present necessities of the day or hour in which he is living ; he can dwell on his personal wants ; and in short give full scope to his feeling, and pour out his whole soul before God, with a freedom that he would not before his dearest friend.
Prayer in secret is also considered by our Lord as forming a line of distinction between the Christian and the mere professor. 66 When thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” When we are constant in secret prayer, not as an act of self-righteousness, but from a feeling of necessity, and of its being both our duty and privilege, we may hope well of our sincerity, and of the general state of our souls before God.
The retirement of private devotion is strongly inculcated in the expression, “Enter into thy closet.” Retire from company.
Go by thyself. Be alone. Retire from the notice of others, to avoid ostentation on the one hand, and distraction on the other. - Shut thy door.” Keep out the world, and prevent every intrusion : thou hast a great business to transact with thy God, and let not the dearest friend or relative interfere with thy intercourse and converse with him. The privacy of prayer is the great thing which is here enforced. Poor persons who have but one apartment, may enter into the spirit of this direction wherever they can be retired. Isaac's closet was a field.
“ He went out to meditate in the field at even-tide.” David's closet was his bed-chamber. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and he still.” Our Lord's closet was a mountain. “When he had sent the multitude away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray, and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” Peter's closet was the house top. - Peter went upon the house top to pray, about the sixth hour.” Hezekiah's closet was turning “his face towards the wall, and praying unto the Lord.”
But there is a retiredness of heart, and a selfrecollection, which is of greater importance than any particular place of prayer. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit ; let us then continually look forand solely depend on his aid, which alone can enable us to give our whole hearts to this great work.
The Scriptures do not give express directions how often we ought to pray, farther than by general intimations, and the examples of others. We ought always to be in the spirit of prayer. But stated seasons for retired prayer, ought, at least, to be twice every day. David says, “ It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High : to show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.” Morning and evening devotions, then, every day, should never be omitted ; and, speaking generally, unless you are prevented by circumstances out of your control, they cannot be neglected without much damage to your soul. Prayer has been compared to a key, that in the morning opens the treasury of God's mercies; and in the evening shuts us up under his protection and safe-guard. It has ever been fond, that as we have sought God in spirit and in truth in the morning, so the rest of the day has prospered.
The habit of early rising is of great importance to the due discharge of morning prayer. O how many precious hours do indolent Christians lose ; while those who are more self-denying and dilicent, are gaining the favor of God and enjoying coinmunion with him.
Our first waking thoughts should be directed towards God; copying David's example, who says,
"6 when I awake I am still with thee." I would advise you to be longest in your morning devotions, when your spirits are lively and vigorous, and undisturbed by the events of the day ; in the evening, when you are tired and spent with its labors, be shorter, and endeavor to attend to this duty sometime before you retire to rest.
The Rev. Mr. Simeon remarks, “ It is too generally found that many, instead of transacting their business with God, while their faculties are alive, stay till exhausted nature is become incapable of any energetic exertion, and then hurry over some form of prayer, as a school boy dues his task, without feeling one word they utter. Even this is too favorable a representation of the prayers of some others, who stay till they have
lain down upon their bed, and then fall asleep in the midst of their devotions. As for praying in the morning, they have ne time for that; the concerns of the past and present day have pre-occupied their minds; and if they offer two or three cuid petitions while they are dressing, or before they leave their room, they think this quite sufficient."
Regular devotional exercises, twice every day, in secret, are insisted on as a plain duty. More than this is strongly recommended. Christians in general would find, what many do find in their own practice, a great advantage in obtaining a few leisure moments for retired and stated prayer in the middle of the day. The word of God gives us encouraging examples of those who have
“ Evening, morning, and at noon-day, will I
pray and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice.” Daniel, in a time of great danger, his windows being opened in his chamber, “ kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he aforetime did.” Here was the secret spring of the eminency of these holy men. They were much in prayer. Besides, men's thoughts and affections will necessarily be most vigorous and lively about those things in which they are incessantly employed, and they are able to do that best which they do most frequently.
The benefits of private prayer are numerous.
1. Intercourse with God in secret prayer, has a transforming efficacy. When Moses had been with God in the mount, the skin of his face shone. Something of that glory which had been then
manifested to him remained with him. And thus the Christian often comes from his closet, with some of the beams of heavenly light and glory, shining as it were in his countenance. Coming into the world is sometimes to him like coming back into a lower sphere, into a new society. He has been holding converse with the unseen world, and he returns invigorated and refreshed for every duty.
2. This blessed employment in secret, raises the Christian above anxiety about temporal things. A holy intercourse with his Maker gives him a fixedness and serenity which nothing else can bestow, and hardly any thing can discompose. It prepares him for all events, and fills him with a noble contempt for all the sinful pleasures and pursuits of a world lying in wickedness.
3. The devout Christian, praying in secret, makes rapid advances in the divine life. “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not be faint.” Sins with which the indolent and careless Christian is contending to his life's end, soon yield to continued and fervent prayer.
It was the daily practice of the eminent physician Boerhaave, through his whole life, as soon as he rose in the morning, which was generally very early, to retire for an hour to private prayer, and meditation on some part of the Scriptures. He often told his friends, when they asked him how it was possible for him to go through so much fatigue with such patience and quietness, that it was this which gave him spirit and vigor in the