Secret PrayingErwin W. Lutzer | January 11, 1998
Selected highlights from this sermon
Jesus wasn’t pleased with hypocritical prayers that many offered. They were seeking the recognition of others rather than the approval of God. Their hearts were in the wrong place.
The Scriptures teach us that prayer begins in private. We are to pray secretly, expectantly, and thoughtfully. To that end, our Lord provided a model for prayer filled with adoration, supplication, confession, and confrontation.
Let us put God first and meet in secret with Him.
Praying takes work. Only the desperate pray, and that’s why God keeps bringing enough trials into our life. It’s to make us desperate enough so that we will seek His face. There’s another reason why prayer is so difficult, and that is because we are praying to an invisible being. It’s a little different if we are conversing together because we understand that, but God can’t be seen and so sometimes our minds wander. And hopefully before this message is over I’ll give you some suggestions on how to take care of that. But our minds tend to wander and we begin to wonder whether this invisible being is actually watching us and listening to us.
Now prayer is emphasized in the Bible, and the rabbis emphasized prayer. One of them said, “He who prays within his house surrounds it with a wall that is stronger than iron.” The problem was that during Christ’s time the whole idea of prayer had really disintegrated into something that was not only displeasing to God but also perfectly nauseating to Him. And the reason for this was because prayers were formalized. You memorized them. Shemma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. That was recited in the morning. It was recited again in the evening. In fact, they knew when to recite it in the morning because the people were told, “When it is light enough for you to distinguish the colors, that’s the time that you say that prayer.” That became old but they kept doing it. And then in addition to that there were all kinds of prayers – up to 18 of them – that were recited and it was almost like an incantation or a spell. People just did it by rote. They just did it because that’s what you do.
Another reason is because there were prayers for all occasions. There were prayers when it lightning-ed. There were prayers when it thundered. There were prayers that were used at meals. There were prayers that were used when you were in difficulty and prayers when you were joyful. And so there was a circumstance and people would say to one another, “What prayer shall we use for this?” Can you imagine thinking of prayer in those terms?
In addition to that, there were set times for prayer, much like the Muslims have today, and a tendency to long prayers because they thought, “If we bang on God’s door long enough, surely He will hear and maybe He can even be pestered into hearing.”
And then in addition to that, there were people who were praying to be seen by others. You know, Jesus will refer to this in Matthew 6, which is the passage we shall turn to in a moment, but there were those who pretended they were so spiritual, they couldn’t even make it to the synagogue before they were praying, and so they just prayed on the steps of the synagogue, and everybody walked by and thought, “My goodness, he couldn’t even make it another 20 feet. He was so godly, he had to pray right there.”
And then there were others who prayed in the market places. You know, the Jews, when they prayed, lifted their hands to heaven, their palms toward God and their head bowed down, and they would pray like this standing on the corners of the streets and in the marketplaces. And for a show, Jesus said they would make long prayers. Can you imagine anything more nauseating than that to God and as well to the people really? Now it’s in that context that Jesus Christ offers some very important instruction regarding prayer. Jesus is saying, “You took the heart out of it. You missed the point. You don’t understand what prayer is all about.”
And so I invite you to turn to Matthew 6 where Jesus discusses this in more detail. You know, we are speaking about secrets in the Christian life, and last time I spoke about secret giving. This time I speak about secret praying, and I might say that this message could totally change your life forever, if you and I listen to it carefully, and if we obey the suggestions that I’m going to be giving. Some of you who have struggled with addictions, some of you who have problems in your life that God doesn’t seem to solve, down deep ingrained habits that you can’t get rid of, this would do it, if we really took this seriously - this message along with the next one that is going to be on secret fasting – if we put the two of them together.
You’ll notice what Jesus says in Matthew 6:5-6, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” They pray to be noticed. People notice them. End of the deal! “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
First of all, Jesus said, “Pray secretly.” Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t pray publicly. Jesus prayed publicly. The disciples prayed publicly. But what Jesus is saying most assuredly is, “Please don’t pray publicly unless you first of all have prayed privately,” because our public prayer should be the expression of the secret prayers that we offer to God, and make sure above all things to pray secretly. Why secretly? Number one, it’s because it helps keep our motives pure because when we are praying in secret in the closet with the door closed we’re not praying that others would hear us. We’re not praying, hoping that the members of our family will find us. We are there simply because we want to be and it’s between us and God. And so we do that in order that we might keep our motives pure.
But we also do it to develop intimacy, that relationship. You know, there are times when 3 is a crowd, and I want you to know that there are times in our relationship with God when it’s just us and God as we go into the depths of our soul and tell God things that we could never tell anybody else. We get into the closets of the heart where all of the things are hidden, and we drag them out in God’s presence. We honestly tell Him exactly how we feel, and we begin to develop those good secrets with Him in times of fellowship that we don’t even have to explain to anyone else, and it happens there in private.
You’ve heard me quote it before, haven’t you?
My God and I, we walk the fields together.
We walk and talk as good friends should and do.
We clasp our hands. Our voices ring with laughter.
My God and I, we walk the meadows through.
There are some things that you can share only with God. There in the closet you develop that kind of intimacy. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your closet and shut the door.” Pray secretly.
He said to pray expectantly. You’ll notice that the text goes on to say this: “And when you pray go into your room and close the door.” Verse 7 says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” You know that pagans have vain repetition, and they keep talking and babbling. You remember in the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel that that’s what they did. The pagans cried to Baal. For half a day they kept saying, “Hear us, oh Baal. Hear us, oh Baal. Hear us, oh Baal.” Jesus said, “Don’t be like that.” They can be like that. They have to say that, because Baal is not listening. But when you talk to God, He’s listening.
If I may use the marriage illustration and take it a step further, some of us who are married know that when our wives talk to us they tell us the same thing again, and maybe again, and maybe again. Some of you guys are laughing and you know right well that you have a good reason to laugh. And I heard an Amen even from the choir. (laughter) And there is no husband who hasn’t listened to his wife say something like “How many times do I have to tell you?” or “You weren’t listening last time.” Well that’s the way we are, but that’s not the way God is. God’s not like that. When His bride – His people – talks to Him, He’s listening, and therefore we don’t have to use vain repetition. Now that does not mean that we can’t mention the same request more than once. Jesus did that too. The disciples did that. Paul did that. He said, “I sought the Lord three times that He might take this thorn away from me.” That’s not the point, but what Jesus is saying is, “Realize that when you pray, God is immediately listening. You don’t have to keep repeating the same thing.” Why? It’s because number one, He has very good ears. He is listening, and He is listening very carefully. In Him we live and we move and we have our being, and God is there in the closet.
Now also, it’s because God has a good memory. Why do you have to mention it to Him again? He remembers what you said yesterday. He’s not like your husband, ladies. Just cheer up. He’s not that way. God knows and He understands, and then Jesus adds these very, very beautiful words that ought to bless and warm our hearts. He says in verse 8, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” You come before the Lord, and God already knows exactly what’s on your heart. He understands the situation fully. He does not have to do any research to be caught up to date as to what is happening. You do not have to go to Him again and again on the same issue as if He’s not listening and can’t remember what it is you mentioned to Him yesterday. He’s not like that. He is God – all knowledge and all memory all in all, and He’s with us right there, and that’s why you can come before God and sometimes not use words. You don’t always have to say things in God’s presence. Sometimes you simply come and you simply rest in the Lord and you meditate on His promises, and that’s all that you do, and that’s all that you need because He knows in advance what your need is.
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of the hidden fire
That trembles ‘neath the breast.
You have a Father who cares about you. So how do we pray? We pray secretly. We pray expectantly. We know that He is listening, and we also pray thoughtfully. And here Jesus gives us a pattern for prayer, which is sometimes referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. And it’s the Lord’s Prayer because He taught us to pray this way, but strictly speaking it isn’t His prayer. It’s the disciples’ prayer because He would never have to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who have debts against us.” And so He doesn’t have to pray that way, but He is giving us a pattern for prayer. And He didn’t intend that this short prayer be memorized, though it’s fine to memorize it, and to recite it regularly. He just said don’t have vain repetition as the heathens do. There is a danger in memorized prayers. I think sometimes prayers can be memorized. Prayers can sometimes be read, and that’s fine because there are ideas that you want to form, and you want to form them properly, and that’s fine, but if there’s no heart in it, and if this is just a prayer and you are looking up what page it’s on, you’ve missed the whole point. And so Jesus said, “Pray after this manner. Pray in this way.” He did not say, “Pray these words.”
Now what I’d like to do in the next few moments is to give you a pattern for prayer based on what Jesus revealed to us that could be life-transforming. You know, here at Moody Church we have what is known as the prayer wall. The prayer wall means that in addition to your regular praying that there is one hour a week just set aside and designated when you especially meet the Lord, and this time is for God. Some of you are on that prayer wall, and perhaps you are discouraged. Others of you have never signed up. I’ve had some people say, “You know, I pray a lot more than that. Why should I even be on the prayer wall? And I say, “Well, God bless you. We’ll get a special wall for you folks.”
But there are a lot of people here who have never signed up and you don’t plan to, and I’ll tell you why. You say to yourself, “What on earth would God and I do together for a whole hour?” That’s what you are thinking. A whole hour with a friend, that one’s thing, but a whole hour with an invisible God – what would we do?
Do you know what we need to do? We need to take some lessons from some of the folks who have preceded us – some of the godly people. Do you know what they would do? When they were in that closet, they would always bring a Bible and a hymnal. A Bible and a hymnal are absolutely essential for that hour if your soul wants to be blessed and if you want to honor the Lord.
Well, let me give you the pattern that Jesus gave. First of all, there is adoration. “Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” You’ll notice that first of all, Jesus refers to God’s name – our Father. And the Greek word is really the Aramaic, which is really daddy or papa. I mean, here’s where you have the intimacy with God, the recognition that if you, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give good gifts unto you? God is really a good God.
Now we see ourselves in distress. We see unanswered prayer. We see heartache, and immediately we begin to think that God is not good, and that’s what keeps us from really seeking Him. We say, “Well, how do I know if, at the end of the time of seeking Him, I’m going to get what I want?” Well, I’ll comment on that in just a moment, but I want you to know that all true prayer for the believer begins with the recognition that we are talking about an infinite being the universe 20 billion years across, a God much bigger than the universe – God infinite. And we are talking about Him and we are saying to Him, “Father.”
You’ll notice it says, “Father, who art in heaven.” Oh yes, He’s in heaven but He’s also on earth. He’s transcendent, and He is imminent, as the theologians tell us. In India there’s a missionary who said that he saw people tapping on a tree or tapping on a stone, and whispering, “Are you in there?” because in Pantheism nature is God and objects are God, and what you have therefore is the idea that God resides “in.” Well, yes, we as Christians believe that God resides “in,” but He’s also independent of the universe, and therefore, He is our Father in heaven, and He’s also our Father on earth, and we don’t have to tap to see whether or not He is there. He is immediately present to us, and so we say, “Hallowed be Thy name.” Thy name be honored. Thy name is holy.
Now notice under adoration we have first of all the name of God. And what you can do during this time that you are there in the closet spending your hour with God is you can meditate on His names. There are various books and various helps that remind us of all of the names of God as to who He is.
You’ll notice the Kingdom of God (Dein Reich coma). Your Kingdom come. And we are praying not merely for the present Kingdom of God and the future Kingdom, and the Millennial Kingdom, which is maybe what Jesus had in mind here, but the eternal rule of God. And what we are praying when we say those words is, “Lord, first we are praying for the rule of God in the hearts of people.” Isn’t that what you pray for when you pray for the members and friends of Moody Church, and you pray for your staff and the elders and the leadership? You are praying for the rule of God, the sovereign work of God in the hearts of His people. Your kingdom come. And we’re also praying for the return of Jesus Christ to earth.
The name of God! The Kingdom of God! The will of God! Thy will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Is the will of God done in heaven? Yes, I would think that the will of God would be done in heaven. And may the will of God done in heaven be done even on earth.
Now theologically we have to distinguish between two different wills. There is the will of God that is always done on earth. God rules all things after the counsel of His own will. That has to do with the providence of God, but there’s another sense in which the will of God is not often done on earth. That is the revealed will of God that we are to live by His precepts, and that we are to live in devotion to Him and yieldedness to Him. But what we are praying when we pray this is, “Oh God, Your will which is so perfectly done in heaven and so imperfectly carried out on earth, may it be, oh God, that the will of God be done here just as it is being done there.” Do you see in this prayer, adoration? Yes, but do you also see the submission here, the recognition of who we are in relationship to who God is?
So what do you do when you are there in the closet? How do you and God get along for that hour? You begin with adoration. Secondly, you begin with supplication. You’ll notice that the text says, “Give us today our daily bread.”
Now folks, as I look at this I can see, for example, the detail with which we can pray. Is God interested in what we eat? Is He interested in whether or not we get that loaf for the day? The answer is yes. Not one hair of your head falls out but that God recognizes it and takes note of it. I know in my case He has been taking a lot of notes recently. (laughter) Aren’t you glad that God looks upon His people?
I see the details of the prayer. I also see the faith that is involved because He’s not saying, “Lord, give me enough bread for the rest of the month, or give me enough bread for the rest of the year, or give me enough bread for retirement.” What he’s saying is, “Give us today our daily bread. Satisfy us today.” And then do you know what you are going to have to do tomorrow? You’re going to have to do it all over again, because today’s bread does not last until tomorrow. It’s like the Israelites going out to gather manna, and if they were out there and gathered it for today and they left it for an extra day, it bred worms because God says, “I don’t want you to be able to live a single day without seeing my miracles, and without dependence upon Me.”
You say, “Well, those of us who have full refrigerators, how do we pray this prayer?” Well, of course, we have the same kind of dependence on God. It may not be for daily bread, though God knows He could take that daily bread from us just like that. Just like that it could all be gone. So we certainly thank Him for the daily bread and we pray that indeed we might have daily bread tomorrow, but in addition to that we have other requests that we begin to bring into the throne room of God. We begin to pray that we will have strength for today, that we will have forgiveness for the day, that we will be able to have all of the needs that we have within our souls met for the day because we know that God is a God of detail and knows the depths of our hearts. And so we come in faith, and we come to pray, and do you know what we discover during this phase of prayer? We discover that Jehovah Jirah the Lord will provide. Remember the story in Genesis where Abraham is willing to sacrifice Isaac, and then he sees a ram caught in the thicket, and the ram dies in the place of Isaac, and he says, “Jehovah Jirah.” That’s what he named it. The Lord will provide and the Hebrew means “The Lord will see to it.”
You have a need that is pressing upon you that you see no way out of. The Lord will see to it. You are going through a time of financial need, which may in some instances be of your own making, in which case you need some counsel and some help most assuredly. But you commit this to Him, and you commit your circumstances to God, and you begin to be obedient to God even in the midst of failure, and you begin to say, “God will see to it.”
So what do we have? We have adoration. We have supplication. We have confession. Now notice what it says. I think it is beginning in about verse 12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” You’ll notice that the Luke version of the Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” And some people have said, “Well, you know this is the word for debts.” I mean if you owed a person money, this is the Greek word that would be used. What Jesus is reminding us of is the fact that when we sin, we owe God. He’s using the word for money, but He doesn’t mean money. He means that when we rebel we owe God. And we can’t pay our debt, so the news of the Gospel is that God comes along and pays our debt for us. That’s what the cross of Christ is all about. And then notice it says, “even as we also forgive our debtors.”
You know, Jesus has some very hard words about this business of anger and hostility towards one another. In verses 14 and 15 He expands on it. He says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Boy, we struggle over that because we’re saying, “Well, does that mean that God’s forgiveness is conditional?” In other words, it’s dependent. Well, we know that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable and that once God grants forgiveness, certainly the forgiveness is granted and He does it so freely. But Jesus is saying in the strongest possible terms that if you are a person who has been forgiven by God, you will be someone who can forgive. And if you are, today, harboring in your heart bitterness, if when God opens your heart when you are there in the closet, and He begins to go into the individual closets of your heart, and He sees there a grudge that is nursed, that is taken care of, that is carefully guarded, that is calculated, and it is there, Jesus would say, “You had better make sure that you have been forgiven by God because if you do not forgive others, you will never sense God’s full forgiveness. And you will never sense His freedom, because people who are forgiven are people who forgive.
Now I know that some of you struggle with that, and that’s understandable. I don’t want you to begin to think that God hasn’t forgiven you. Some of you have experienced deep horrendous injustices. Some of you have experienced abuse, and forgiveness is not just an act. It is also a process. But to simply hold what is within our hearts without the process and without the good faith of choosing to forgive, Jesus would say, “Look deeply into your heart and see whether or not you’ve been forgiven.” This is the time now in that one hour when you begin to confess. And if you are going to confess your faults individually, which should be done, you know that hour is going to go by pretty quickly, isn’t it? It’s not going to be nearly as long as some of you thought it was going to be. In fact, you are going to look at your watch and see that it’s two hours. And do you know why some of you really don’t feel God that close? It’s because you’ve never taken the time to dig that deep and to simply say, “Father, what is there within me that causes this alienation from others and from You?” And that’s the time that God does His work.
So how far have we come? You begin with adoration. You go to supplication. You go to confession, and then you have confrontation because there is an enemy out there that does not like us at all. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” And that’s a good translation by the way – the evil one. That’s what the other aspect of the Lord’s Prayer says, and that’s the intention there. “Lead us not into temptation.” In James it says that God doesn’t lead anybody into temptation, but the word that is used here is much broader than temptation. I think that Jesus is saying, “Don’t lead us into those kinds of situations where we are going to fall.” God does not lead us into temptation in the sense that He causes us to be in a position where He tries to lead us astray, but He does lead us in situations where we are invited to declare our loyalties and where trials come where we can choose in God’s favor. Obviously the impression that is being given here is, “Don’t lead us into those kinds of situations in which we will be led to failure.” Lead us not into that kind of trial – not that kind. Trials are okay but not that kind of trial.
And then He says, “Deliver us from the evil one,” and that’s where you begin to pray warfare prayers for yourself and for your family and others, where you begin to recognize now that you are up against a terribly evil being who is going to want to do everything he possibly can do to make sure that you don’t spend that hour a week, or an hour whenever that hour may be really earnestly seeking the face of God.
And then after you’ve done that, of course there are all kinds of things that you can pray for. You know the pictorial directory that we’ve been hearing about these weeks? And some of you say that you don’t want to be in it. That’s perfectly fine because you have that choice, but you know if you were in it, many of us use that pictorial directory as a means of prayer. You go through and you look at the names and you try to associate the name with the picture and you commit all of these people to God, and your family members to God.
And then, of course, as I mentioned earlier, during this period of time with a hymnal you begin to sing to God, and all the members of your family hope and pray that the closet that you have gone into has a very good solid oak door so that you don’t un-bless other people through your singing. But folks, that’s the nature of the game here. It’s you and God. You are praising Him through adoration, through supplication, through confession, through confrontation with the enemy. You are praising Him and you are developing a whole network of memories and relationships with the living and the true God, and as a result of that you begin to understand what it means to go and pray in private where just you and God develop that memory bank of secrets.
Let me give you some pointers as we conclude. Number one, remember that time spent in the closet is time taken away from other important things. You know, there are some people who say, “Well, you know, I’ll pray if I feel like it,” in which case, of course, they very, very seldom pray. Or else God takes them through a keyhole to help make them feel like it. That’s possible. And then there are others who say, “You know, I really am too busy.” That really has to be a very, very humorous thing when you stop to think about it. Too busy for God?
I want you to know that the time that we take to pray is most precious to God when it is time taken from other important things where we are saying, “God, I have something important to do, but what I am going to do now is even more important. I will pray.” I mean, that puts God first, does it not? You say, “Well, my mind wanders.” Of course your mind wanders. So you do two things. In the closet you take a notepad along with you, because the devil will remind you of everything you have to do that week. And so take advantage of it. As they come to mind, you write them down on the notepad. That’s a good time to be caught up on all the things that you have to do because your mind will be flooded with all of them at that moment. So you write them down.
The second thing that you do as your mind is wandering during prayer, and it’s not necessarily something that needs to go into the notebook, is you give the thing to which your mind has wandered to God, and you commit it to Him. And you take advantage of the wandering mind until everything that your mind has wandered about is now safely committed into the hands of your Heavenly Father. That’s the way you do it.
You know, it’s amazing. People think, “Well, you know, you are either a Christian who prays or you are not. You are either the godly type or the other type. My dear friend, we all have to learn how to do this. This does not come naturally. This fights against our schedules. It fights against our nature. It fights against all kinds of opposition. It fights against the devil, and so if you think this is going to be easy, it’s not easy. But is it beneficial? Does it honor God? Does it change you? It sure does. And so what we need to know is that time spent in the closet is taken away from something else, and it is there that we begin with 20 minutes. I know that somebody said, “Don’t lay so much guilt on people, telling them that they should pray before nine o’clock in the morning,” so I won’t lay guilt on you except to say that you’d better do it. (laughter) No guilt and no pressure, but you see, if you don’t do it in the morning, usually you don’t do it throughout the day. Now if you’ve talked to your Heavenly Father, and your Heavenly Father says, “Hey, you don’t have to do it before nine o’clock in the morning,” then don’t. But it is a suggestion. Why? It’s because of the press of the duties of the day. And what do you do during those 20 minutes? You give God your day. You give Him your schedule. You recite His promises. You choose to walk in obedience. You say to yourself, “I receive in simple faith the fullness of the Spirit for today,” and you begin the day with God.
And then there are these other times that we are talking about – that special hour that’s just between you and God. That’s something else. That’s set aside. That’s a special time, and that can be any time, and you can talk to Pastor Michael Allen here who is in charge of our prayer wall, so that you can choose a time that is best for you. It can be late at night. It can be early in the morning. It can be at mid-day. It can be at any time that is most convenient for you to say, “This hour is for God.” Is that too much to ask - one out of 168 hours just for God? Of course, the others are for Him too. I know that, but this is a special time when you are getting to know the Almighty whom you say you are going to spend eternity with. You are going to spend eternity with Him, and you are struggling with an hour?
Secondly, we’ll be rewarded by the Person whose praise we seek. Let’s look at the text again. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogue and the street corners to be seen by men, and they have their reward in full.” In recent weeks, as you know, most of the time I kneel during the pastoral prayer, and I’ve struggled a lot with whether or not I should do that, because the worst thing that could happen is that I have the motive of making people think that I am spiritual because I do that. That’s not why I do it. But you see it’s such a sensitive area, because Jesus is warning here about the hypocrisy of trying to impress people, when really what you want to do is you want to impress God. You want to say, “God, this is where we belong – on our knees – because You are so holy and You are so mighty that there are times when being on your knees is exactly the right thing to do. But the motives of the heart are so subtle and all of the mixed motives that we as humans fight with. So Jesus said, “If you are doing it for others and they think you are spiritual and you’ve received your strokes, fine! The reward is in full, but when you pray go into your room,” and now notice what He says: “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” He’ll reward you.
You seek the praise of men; you’ve got it. If you seek the praise of God alone, you’ve got that too. And one of the wonderful things is for us to know that we’ve been in the closet and we’ve prayed for situations and we see God working in those situations and nobody knows but God and us because we’ve been in His presence, and we know right well what God is doing, and it is a secret between us. And we begin to develop a life in which we really genuinely enjoy God. We just enjoy Him.
David Brainerd was surely one of the greatest prayer warriors. I didn’t realize that he died before the age of 30. There are some people who do more in their youth than some of us who have lived longer than that. It’s amazing. He used to pray for the Indians. It is said that he used to go into the forest there in Massachusetts and kneel in prayer until the snow melted beneath him. That’s how much time he spent in prayer, and thousands of American Indians were led to faith in Christ because Brainerd just prayed and prayed and ministered to the Indians and then prayed some more.
He died, by the way, in the home of Jonathan Edwards, and Jonathan Edwards wrote a biography about David Brainerd. And because of that biography, you know, here’s William Carey, for example. Why did he go to the mission field? It’s because he read that biography. And you have a lot of other people inspired and changed. Now, of course, Brainerd being there in the forest in secret, praying, didn’t know that someday his life would have so many effects and that Murray M'Cheyne and others would all trace the conversion of their heart attitude and learning prayer to him. He didn’t know that. All that he was doing was seeking God. And I want you to hear the words of what Jonathan Edwards said about him in his biography. He said, “I praise God that it was in His providence that he should die in my house, that I might hear his prayer, that I might witness his consecration, and that I might be inspired by his example.”
The great danger in preaching a message like this is that some people will think it’s for super saints. You know, it’s for the people, it’s for the pastoral staff, it’s for the elders, and it’s for the leaders because you know you always have those real spiritual types. You always find those who are so inclined. No, we’re talking about something that is for everybody. And what the bottom line of all of this is that private prayer results in public blessing. The Father who sees in secret rewards you, and He does so in this life, and He rewards you in the life to come because you and I have finally learned the value of having these precious intimate secrets with Almighty God.
Some of you are a little further back in your spiritual quest. What you need to do first of all is to receive God’s forgiveness and be reconciled to God. The worst thing that you could do is to get into a closet and to read some prescribed prayers or begin to go through some of a route thing where you have this all memorized, and you say, “Well, I’m going to spend this hour.” That’s not it. Jesus is saying that that misses the whole point. This is an individual in loving fellowship with Almighty God. That’s what it’s about.
And if you have never believed on Christ and been reconciled to God personally then that’s the starting point to receive His forgiveness and His reconciliation. And then your private prayer life results in public blessing. And then do you know what you’ll be able to do if you sign up for that prayer wall? Finally you are going to be able to sing Sweet Hour of Prayer with integrity. Won’t that be great? You’ll be able to sing it without lying.
Let us pray.
Father, forgive us, forgive us, forgive us. You have given us an invitation that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because You are always available. You are always present. In You we live and move and have our being. And Father, in the rush of busyness, in the topsy-turvy experiences of life, we rationalize and we brush You off. Forgive us, Father. We ask that the congregation of Moody Church shall be mightily moved to spend time in prayer, that You might help us to learn how to do it. We ask, Father, that You will do that, because we need to and some are taking baby steps, and there are some people who are much further along. But Lord, at whatever level we are at, make this a transforming moment. Make it that, we pray. And we ask that from this congregation such a crescendo of prayer shall arise from the closet that the blessing of God will begin to be seen beyond our walls and within the city, and we shall know it is because your people have humbled themselves and they have prayed. Father, hear our prayers for we are very, very needy. And lead us, Lord, to You. Give us such a hunger and thirst that we will not be able to stay away from You. In Jesus name we ask, Amen.