THE AGED CHRISTIAN IN HIS CLOSET
A Ninth letter to an elderly person
There are times when we must be alone with God. There are times when the Christian wants to get away from others, and draw near to his heavenly Father. Our Lord knew that this was needful for the well-being of our souls; and therefore He said, ‘Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.’ Jesus, you see, is here speaking of private prayer, when no one is present with us but God Himself.
Think how great your need is, both as regards your body, and your soul. Have you not need of God’s protection and care to keep you alive from day to day? Have you not need of His guiding hand to direct you in your path? Have you not need of His grace to keep you from falling into sin, and to strengthen your faith? Have you no bad habits to get rid of, and no bad tempers to subdue? Are there no friends or neighbours, for whom you should intercede? Is there no work for Christ going on in the world, for which you should pray? Surely these are matters which you have great need to bring before God.
Think too how great are your sins. There are sins committed long ago in the days of your youth, for which you need pardon. And there are later sins – newly committed, perhaps, which lie heavy on your conscience: these too must be forgiven, or you cannot be happy. Oh, how many things there are which we have left undone – how many that we have done wrongly – how many little sins, which we scarcely notice at the time – how many secret sins which the world knows nothing of! We must carry all these to the Cross, and entreat Christ to wash them away in His own blood.
Think again how great are your mercies. You have cause to thank your heavenly Father for all His past goodness to you, and for all His present gifts. Oh, how great they are, and how little you have deserved them! Why has He spared you so long? Why are you yet alive, when so many have been cut off? Has He not fed you, and clothed you, all your life long? Has he not preserved you from ten thousand dangers? Has He not shielded you in the hour of temptation? Has He not kept you from sin, when others have fallen into it?
A minister was once visiting a hospital. And as he went from bed to bed in the different wards, he came to an old man, who was apparently suffering much pain. He began to express his pity for this poor sufferer. ‘Is there anything, my friend, that you want?’ he asked. ‘No’, replied the old man, ‘I have many mercies and blessings in this place. I want but one thing.’ ‘And what is that?’ asked the minister. ‘I want’, said he, ‘a more thankful heart.’
Yes, we all of us have great needs, great sins, and great mercies. And this should bring us on our knees, and stir us up to prayer.
But, my dear friend, do you know what prayer, real prayer, is? It is not the mere utterance of words. It is not the mere moving of the lips. It is not the mere repeating of a string of sentences, which we lave learned by heart. No, this is not prayer. Prayer is drawing near to our gracious Father, telling Him all about our souls, begging of Him to pardon all our sins, asking Him to give us all we need, and thanking Him for His daily mercies. Prayer is speaking to God, though we cannot see Him.
You need not offer up long prayers. God does not judge of them by their length; but He looks to our earnestness. You need not offer up learned prayers. The sighing of a contrite heart, and the words of a soul that feels, are enough for Him. It is best to speak to God in your own words; what matters is that your prayer comes from your heart.
Now let me say a word as to when you should offer up prayer.
Certainly morning and evening are the natural times for such a service. I dare say you have been accustomed to this. We should begin and end the day on our knees. We should do nothing in the morning before we have solemnly put ourselves under God’s care;
and in the evening one of our last acts should be to visit the throne of grace before we lie down to rest.
But, dear friend, if you know the value of prayer, you will not be content with your morning and evening devotions. Twelve or fourteen hours are a long while to go without speaking to your heavenly Friend. Especially if you are only half awake in the morning, and perhaps very weary at night, I would recommend you to have a time for prayer in the middle of the day. David’s custom, and Daniel’s, was to pray at noon; and then, when you are fully awake and alert, is an excellent time to pray. I strongly advise you to try it, if you have not already done so. When you come to die, you will not feel that you have prayed too much, or too often. Your sorrow will then be, that, although God was always ready to hear you, you were so backward in drawing near to Him.
But does Paul not say, ‘Pray without ceasing”. This, at first sight, seems to be a very hard direction to follow. To be always praying! To be ever on our knees! To be at the throne of grace all the day long! This is more than the holiest men – even Paul himself – could do, What he means, I think, is that we should always be in a praying frame – that we should be ready to go to Him on all occasions – and that there should be a constant intercourse between us and our God.
Try then, and act on Paul’s advice. Besides praying at stated, or fixed times, get into the way of putting up a word or two to God oftentimes during the day. When you are sitting in your chair you can lift up your heart to God. When you are walking along the street, you can breath out a secret petition to your gracious Father. Though you may say nothing aloud, your inward soul may pray. No man may be listening to you; but God, who hears in secret, hearkens to your request.
For instance, if you are going to do anything for which you want strength given you, the cry ‘Lord, help me’ may be made at any time. If a feeling of your sinfulness comes over you, you may breathe a secret prayer, saying, ‘Lord, save me.’ Or if you want to feel your Saviour’s presence, you may dart up some such short request as this,
O Lord, be with me;’ ‘Lord, let me feel thy presence.’
My dear friend, if you wish to live a Christian life, this habit will be a great help to you. It will bring you close to God, and will bring
His grace upon you. If you are a true Christian, you will love prayer;
and more especially now that your praying time may soon be over.
You hope to spend eternity with God; oh, then, seek to know
Him and to love Him now. Let Him be no stranger to you, but your daily and hourly Companion. If you had a friend near you whom you specially loved, should you not wish often to look upon him?
should you not feel that those moments were the happiest which
you spend in his presence, and when he was by your side? Should
you not be often speaking to him? I am sure you would. Then act the same with Him who is better than all earthly friends, in whose favour is life, and in whose presence is fulness of joy.
If you wish to be much blest, pray. If you wish to have a foretaste of heaven even while on earth, pray. If you wish to know, and to love, and to possess Christ, be much in prayer. If you wish to tread safely the path of life, and to go on your way rejoicing, pray. Â‘Pray without ceasing.Â’ Â‘In all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your rquests be made known unto God.Â’