With most praying people, the fundamental if not the
exhaustive conception of prayer is asking somewhat of God. This is indeed
a part, but surely it is not the whole, of prayer; and it may be doubtful
whether more than a beginning is made unless and until there be a disclosure
of God to the soul. We read of our blessed Lord Himself that at times He
withdrew from all human companionships, for the purpose of secret communion with
the Father; as when He went out "into a mountain to pray and continued all
night in prayer to God" (Lk. 6:12). These midnight, all-night interviews,
mark the great crises of His life on earth; and it cannot be supposed that He
spent all these hours in continuous supplication. Was it not rather like Gideon,
on the plains of Jezreel, to spread out his whole being like fleece, to drink in
the heavenly dew in the Father’s Presence and in the strength of this
celestial nectar confront new trials and temptations?
Thus meditative prayer, like reflective reading of the Word
of God, becomes a perpetual means and medium of communion with God. He who
converses with a friend, habitually, has no room for doubt as to that friend’s
existence and presence; and God meant that this simple method of converse with
Himself should be a demonstration that He is, and is a rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). It is a demonstration so convincing as to
dispel all doubts, being itself the sufficient proof of His reality and verity
as the ever present, living, helping God.
The humblest believer, however unlettered or unlearned, may
attain in this school of prayer to practical certainty in divine things; he
needs not read volumes of Apologetics, or Evidences of Christianity. He needs
but to cultivate the sense of the Presence of God, and the proofs, though he
cannot always formulate them for others, become convincing and overwhelming to
himself. Indeed we most often find such assurance of faith in the humbler,
simpler sort of disciples; and, because it is found in the ignorant and
unlearned rather than the princes of this world, or the great scholars of the
church, there is a proneness to associate such faith with credulity and even
with superstition. The more intelligent and intellectual too often lean to their
own understanding, and turn to human logic and philosophy for confirmation of
their faith. He who learns to have no other means of strengthening his assurance
save converse with God, is compelled to learn in God’s school, where logic and
philosophy are never perverted to the purposes of fallacy and sophistry.
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, abides under the
shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91:1). The darts of satanic doubt can pierce
him, only as they first pass through the divine "wings" which are his
covering and shelter.
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet;
and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father, Who is in secret; and thy
Father, Who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" (Mt. 6:6).
Here, then, is the initial lesson of our Lord upon prayer.
And, as in any other first lesson, a master teacher naturally lays down
fundamental laws or first principles, we find here laid the cornerstone of all
true prayer. This primary lesson is so easy to see that it is hard to mistake,
namely: Prayer is at bottom the meeting of a human suppliant, alone with God,
for supplication and communion at the mercy-seat, and revelation of the
Existence, Presence and character of God.
Certain it is that the closet is not an oratory so much as an
observatory, from which to get new views of God. There is a quest higher than
mere request. There is a search after knowledge of God and communication from
Him. In this secret place, devout souls learn what is meant by communion and
communion is mutual. There is not only prayer offered, but blessing received.
The praying soul speaks to God, and hears God speak. He who enters the closet
gets as well as gives, and finds the most precious part of this communion, not
in any requests imparted Godward, but in returns imparted manward, the reception
from God of divine impressions and communications. The reward, promised, comes
while yet he speaks and waits before the Lord: believing he receives, and
receiving enjoys. Such reward cannot be kept secret. It makes the heart to
overflow and even the face to shine.