“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly.” Matthew 6:6
In the Christian’s devotional life, prayer has an essential place. The godly men of the Bible were all men of prayer. Jesus, who showed us in Himself the ideal life of a child of God — had regular habits of prayer. He who would live the Christian life well, must regularly commune with God!
It is important, however, that we understand clearly what it is to pray. It is not enough that at stated times we go over certain forms of prayer. We only pray, when we speak to God what is in our heart as a desire, a longing, or a burden.
Jesus teaches that we are to pray to God as our Father. We must come to Him, therefore, as children — with the genuineness, the simplicity, the confidence of children. When we stand at God’s throne of grace and speak the name “Father” and ask for a child’s blessing — we are sure of instant welcome.
Many people think of prayer only as coming to God with requests. They tell Him only their needs. They never bow before him nor speak to Him, unless there is something they wish Him to do for them.
What would you think of a friend of yours who never came to you nor talked with you, except when he wanted to ask some favor of you? True friendship finds many of its sweetest moments when there is no help to ask — but when only love’s communion fills the happy time. It should be so in our relation with our heavenly Father. If we care to be with Him only when we have a favor to ask of Him — then there is something lacking in our love.
We are not to suppose that when Jesus spent whole nights in prayer he was making requests all the time. He went away from the trying, struggling, troublesome life of the busy days among the people — to find shelter, rest, and renewal of strength, in sweet converse with his Father. Just so, most of the time we spend in prayer should be given to communion with God.
A minister relates that one Saturday morning, when he was in his study preparing his sermon, his little child opened the door and came in, stealing softly to his side. Somewhat impatiently, the father turned to her and asked, “What do you want, my child?”
“Nothing, papa,” the child replied. “I only want to be with you.”
This is oft-times the only desire of the true Christian when he comes to pray. He has no request to make — he just wants to be with his Father!
The most profitable season of devotion, is that in which there is also meditation upon God’s Word. It is related of a godly Christian who was known to spend much time in his prayer-closet, that a friend once secreted himself in his study to learn something of his devotional habit. The godly man was busy all the evening at his work. At eleven o’clock he put away his books and pen and opened his New Testament. For a whole hour he bent over its pages, reading, comparing, pondering the sacred words. Sometimes he would linger long over a sweet verse and his heart would glow with rapture. When the clock struck twelve, he closed the book and sought his bed.
He was not once on his knees during all the hour. He offered no petition in words. He had spent the whole time in communing with God in His Word, breathing out his love, his adoration, his longings and desires — and receiving into his heart the assurances, the encouragements, the promises, the joys of the Father’s love.
There could be no better way of devotion than this!
Praying alone, without meditation on the Word of God, meets only one phase of our need. We talk to God when we do this. But it is quite as important that God talks to us — and He will only talk with us, when we open the Scriptures and wait reverently to hear what He will say to us.
What is the HELP that we are to receive from prayer?
First of all, prayer holds us close to God. We breathe Heaven’s air when we commune with Christ. Life in this sinful world is not easy. It has its struggles, its duties, its difficulties, and its sorrows — which exhaust our strength. Hence we need continually to return to God to have our grace renewed. We cannot live today, on yesterday’s food; every morning we must pray for our daily bread. Nor can we be faithful, strong, happy and helpful Christians today — on yesterday’s supply of grace. We need to pray daily. Thus our life is kept from running down, and we are held near our Master all the while.
The true Christian life also grows — and it can only do so by daily communing with God. Our life should never run two days on just the same level. The days should be ladder rungs lifting our heart ever a little higher, nearer to God, into purer air, into loftier experiences, into holier consecration.
Prayer brings God down into our life. It was when Jesus was praying, that He was transfigured. True prayer always transfigures! One who lives habitually with God, becomes like God. Our earthly affairs become means of grace, if Christ is with us. Prayer lifts all the experiences of our life and lays them in the hand of Christ — who makes them work together for our eternal good!