Entering into the closet of prayer is an exciting entrance into an unspeakable intimacy with God and His grace. I have a peer who recently discovered deeper prayer through a freshly established prayer closet. He enthusiastically testifies that his eyes have been opened to see that the Lord does indeed supply grace for every requirement of a stressful pastorate. He asked me if I could offer some hints as to the best way of spending time in the closet.
After sharing with him some profitable discoveries that sweetened my own inner chamber time, I then shared with him the following five thoughts gleaned from the writings of Andrew Murray.
1. As you enter the inner chamber let your first work be to thank God for the unspeakable love which invited you to come to Him and to converse freely with Him. If your heart is cold and hard, remember that prayer is not a matter of feeling, but has to do first with the will. Lift your heart to God and thank Him for the assurance you have that he looks down on you and will bless you. Through such an act of faith you honor God and draw your soul away from being occupied with itself. Think also of the glorious grace of the Lord Jesus, Who is willing to teach you to pray and to give you the disposition to do so. Think, too, of the Holy Spirit Who was purposely given to cry, ‘Abba, Father’, in your heart, and to help your weakness in prayer. Five minutes spent thus will strengthen your faith for your work in the inner chamber. Once more I say, begin with an act of thanksgiving and praise God for the inner chamber and the promise of blessing there.
2. You must prepare yourself for prayer by prayerful Bible study. The great reason why the inner chamber is not attractive is that people do not know how to pray. Their stock of words is soon exhausted and they do not know what further to say, because they forget that prayer is not a soliloquy, where everything comes from one side; but it is a dialogue, where God’s child listens to what the Father says, and replies to it, and then asks for the things he needs. Read a few verses from the Bible. Do not concern yourself with the difficulties contained in them. You can consider these later; but take what you understand, apply it to yourself, and ask the Father to make His word light and power in your heart. Thus, you will have material enough for prayer from the word which the Father speaks to you; you will also have the liberty to ask for things you need. Keep on in this way, and the inner chamber will become at length, not a place where you sigh and struggle only, but one of living fellowship with the Father in heaven. Prayerful study of the Bible is indispensable for powerful prayer.
3. When you have thus received the Word into your heart, turn to prayer. But do not attempt it hastily or thoughtlessly, as though you knew well enough how to pray. Prayer in our own strength brings no blessing. Take time to present yourself reverently and in quietness before God. Remember His greatness and holiness and love. Think over what you wish to ask from Him. Do not be satisfied with going over the same thing every day. No child goes on saying the same thing day after day to his earthly father. Conversation with the Father is colored by the needs of the day. Let your prayer be something definite, arising either out of the Word which you have read, or out of the real soul-needs which you long to have satisfied. Let your prayer be so definite that you can say as you go out, ‘I know what I have asked from my Father, and I expect an answer.’ It is a good plan sometimes to take a piece of paper and write down what you wish to pray for. You might keep such a paper for a week or more, and repeat the prayers till some new need arises.
4. What has been said is in reference to your own needs. But you know that we are allowed to pray that we may also help in the needs of others. One great reason why prayer in the inner chamber does not bring more joy and blessing is that it is too selfish, and selfishness is the death of prayer. Remember your family; your congregation, with its interests; your own neighborhood and the church to which you belong. Let your heart be enlarged and take up the interest of missions and of the church through out the world. Become an intercessor, and you will experience for the first time the blessedness of prayer, as you find out that God will make use of you to share His blessing with others through prayer. You will begin to feel that there is something worth living for, as you find that you have something to say to God, and that He from heaven will do things in answer to your prayers which otherwise would not have been done. A weak child of God prays only for himself, but a full-grown man in Christ understands how to consult with God over what must take place in the kingdom. Let your prayer list bear the names of those for whom you pray . . . your minister, and all other ministers, and the different missionary affairs with which you are connected. Become such a prayer warrior and your prayer closet will really become a wonder of God’s goodness and a fountain of great joy. It will become the most blessed place on earth. God will make it a Bethel, where His angels shall ascend and descend. He will make it also Peniel, where you will see the face of God, as a prince of God, as one who wrestled with the angel and overcame him.
5. Do not forget the close bond between the inner chamber and the outer world. The attitude of the inner chamber must remain with us all the day. The object of the inner chamber is so to unite us to God that we may have him always abiding with us. Sin, thoughtlessness, and yielding to the flesh or to the world unfit us for the inner chamber.
After giving to my inquiring friend these five hints from Andrew Murray, I strongly suggested to him, as I now do to you, that we might search out the valuable practices of other great prayer warriors of the past. Most recently I have read and profited greatly from the writings of Andrew A. Bonar, who was one of a Scottish quartet that prayed fervently for revival in the 1800’s. W. C. Burns, Robert Murray McCheyne, Alexander Moody Stuart and Bonar were men who shared their closet experiences with each other. I read where Andrew A. Bonar said to his partners in prayer, “Oh brother pray, in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer, rather neglect friends than not pray, rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, supper and sleep, too – than not pray.” Reading about such prayer warriors of the past, along with listening and reading of many contemporary giants of prayer, can do nothing but edify and enhance our personal closet time. But, to read of prayer is not enough, we must give ourselves to prayer! To read and preach prayer is fruitless if we do not ourselves give proper time in the prayer closet. Perhaps, the most damaging sin of the day is the sin of prayerlessness. Much of the deplorable, sinful condition of the Church today can be charged to the sin of prayerlessness. ‘Oh dear God, cause me to know my sin.’
______ W. Clyde Martin is editor of the online magazine THE PRAYER LIFE, a monthly publication promoting closet prayer among the redeemed. Send all comments to email@example.com