`Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee.' -- Matt. 6:6
The spiritual life with its growth depends in great measure on prayer. According as I pray much or little, pray with pleasure or as a duty, pray according to the word of God or my own inclination, will my life flourish or decay. In the word of Jesus quoted above, we have the leading ideas of true prayer.
Alone with God: that is the first thought. The door must be shut, with the world and man outside, because I am to have converse with God undisturbed. When God met with His servants in the olden time, He took them alone. (Gen. 28:22,23; 22:5; 32:24; Ex. 33:11) Let the first thought in your prayer be: here are God and I in the chamber with each other. According to your conviction of the nearness of God will be the power of your prayer.
In the presence of your Father: this is the second thought. You come to the inner chamber, because your Father with His love awaits you there. Although you are cold, dark, sinful; although it is doubtful whether you can pray at all; come, because the Father is there, and there looks upon you. Set yourself beneath the light of his eye. Believe in His tender fatherly love, and out of this faith prayer will be born. (Matt. 6:8; 7:11)
Count certainly upon an answer: that is the third point in the word of Jesus. `Your Father will recompense you openly.' There is nothing about which the Lord Jesus has spoken so positively as the certainty of an answer to prayer. Pray, review the promises. (Matt 6:7,8; 11:24; Luke 28:8; John 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23,24) Observe how constantly in the Psalms, that prayer-book of God's saints, God is called upon as the God who hears prayer and gives answers. (Ps. 3:5; 4:4; 6:10; 10:17; 27:6,22,25; 20:2,7,10; 34:5,7,18; 38:16; 40:2; 65:3; 66:19)
It may be that there is much in you that prevents the answer. Delay in the answer is a very blessed discipline. It leads to self-searching as to whether we are praying amiss, and whether our life is truly in harmony with our prayer. It rouses to a purer exercise of faith. (Josh. 7:12; 1 Sam. 8:18; 14:37,38; 28:6,15; Prov. 21:13; Isa. 1:15; Mic. 3:4; Hag. 1:9; Jas. 1:6; 4:3; 5:16) It conducts to a closer and more persistent converse with God. The sure confidence of an answer is the secret of powerful praying. Let this always be with us the chief thing in prayer. When you pray, stop in the midst of your prayer to ask, Do I believe that I am receiving what I pray for? Let your faith receive and hold fast the answer as given: it shall turn out according to your faith. (Ps. 145:9; Isa. 30:19; Jer. 33:3; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 9:29; 15:28; 1 John 3:22; 5:14,15)
Beloved young Christians, if there is one thing about which you must be conscientious, it is this: secret converse with God. Your life is hid with Christ in God. Every day must you in prayer ask from above, and by faith receive in prayer what you need for that day. Every day must personal intercourse with the Father and the Lord Jesus be renewed and strengthened. God is our salvation and our strength: Christ is our life and our holiness: only in personal fellowship with the living God is our blessedness found.
Christian, pray much, pray continually, pray without ceasing. When you have no desire to pray, go just then to the inner chamber. Go as one who has nothing to bring to the Father, to set yourself before Him in faith in His love. That coming to the Father, and abiding before Him, is already a prayer that He understands. Be assured that to appear before God, however passively, always brings a blessing. The Father not only hears: He sees in secret, and He will recompense it openly.
O my Father, who hast so certainly promised in Thy word to hear the prayer of faith, give to me the Spirit of prayer, that I may know how to offer that prayer. Graciously reveal to me Thy wonderful Fatherly love, the complete blotting out of my sins in Christ, by which every hindrance in this direction is taken away, and the intercession of the Spirit in me, by which my ignorance or weakness cannot deprive me of the blessing. Teach me with faith in Thee, the Three-One, to pray in fellowship with Thee. And confirm me in the strong living certitude that I receive what I believingly ask. Amen.
1. In prayer the principal thing is faith. The whole of salvation, the whole of the new life is by faith, therefore also by prayer. There is all too much prayer that brings nothing, because there is little faith in it. Before I pray, and while I pray, and after I have prayed, I must ask: Do I pray in faith? I must say: I believe with my whole heart.
2. To arrive at this faith we must take time in prayer: time to set ourselves silently and trustfully before God, and to become awake to His presence: time to have our soul sanctified in fellowship with God: time for the Holy Spirit to teach us to hold fast and use trustfully the word of promise. No earthly knowledge, no earthly possessions, no earthly food, no intercourse with friends, can we have without time, sufficient time. Let us not think to learn how to pray, how to enjoy the power and the blessedness of prayer, if we do not take time with God.
3. And then there must be not only time every day, but perseverance from day to day. Time is required to grow in the certitude that we are acceptable to the Father, and that our prayer has power, in the confidence which knows that our prayer is according to His will and is heard. We must not suppose that we know well enough how to pray, and can but ask, and then it is over. No: prayer is converse and fellowship with God, in which God has time and opportunity to work in us, in which our souls die to their own will and power, and become bound up and united with God.
4. For encouragement in persistent prayer, the following instance may be of service. In an address delivered at Calcutta, George Muller recently said that in 1844 five persons were laid upon his heart, and that he began to pray for their conversion. Eighteen months passed by before the first was converted. He prayed five years more, when the second was converted. After twelve years and a half, yet another was converted. And now he also already prayed forty years for the other two, without letting slip a single day; and still they are not converted. He was, nevertheless, full of courage in the sure confidence that these two also would be given him in answer to his prayer.