Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.
I wonder if you had a little trouble with this chapter at first as I did? Can we just stop for a moment and make a pot of coffee or tea and sit down together to talk this through honestly? Because here is the point in the discussion where I start to have the feeling that I am not really going to be able to do this after all.
Near the beginning of this chapter, Dr. Murray says
“And the first thing the Lord teaches His disciples is that they must have a secret place for prayer; every one must have some solitary spot where he can be alone with his God.”
I had a few words with Dr. Murray about the fact that he was a 19th century male and not likely to be surrounded by loud, demanding children all day; and how he was also a full time scholar, teacher and pastor and probably didn’t have to look too hard for private spaces and times in which to be alone with his God. I know some of you were thinking it too.
But fortunately, just a bit farther down in the paragraph, Dr. Murray throws us a lifeline:
“He has already taught us at Samaria that worship is no longer confined to times and places; that worship, spiritual true worship, is a thing of the spirit and the life; the whole man in his whole life must worship in spirit and truth.”
This is vital. There is no confining the worship of the believer. We mustn’t get bogged down by the thought of one devoted place and time. We mustn’t be discouraged by the present reality of our days. God knows all these things already and has liberated us from the requirements of time, place and posture. (Not that these things are wrong! Only that these things are not requirements.) What we are truly after is a whole life bent towards God in prayer and worship.
Still, Dr. Murray presses on,
“ … He wants each one to choose for himself the fixed spot where he can daily meet him. That inner chamber, that solitary place, is Jesus’ schoolroom. That spot may be anywhere, that spot may change from day to day…but that secret place there must be…”
And so I began thinking of women I know who have found a way through this conundrum:
- Susannah Wesley – who created privacy for prayer by putting her apron over her face while her children played around her.
- Phyllis Tickle – author of the Divine Hours, who said she would escape to the bathroom three times a day and lock the door in order to pray. (sorry, I couldn't locate the link for that article.)
- Katherine – an Orthodox mother who brings her children with her to their family altar
and prays throughout the day.
- Jennifer – a Catholic mother who sets “hard stops” in her day, tried a reckless experiment with prayer, and learned some valuable lessons from the monks.
- Susan Schaeffer Macaulay – the daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, who set a table for afternoon tea and invited Christ to share her precious hour of alone time.
Finding a secret space, whether it be in the midst of playing children with an apron over your face, or locked in a bathroom for a few precious moments, is not going to be easy and this is why the rest of the chapter is so important. It is built around this verse in Matthew 6:
“The first thing in closet-prayer is: I must meet my Father. […] The Father is in secret, the Father waits me there. Just because your heart is cold and prayerless, get you into the presence of the loving Father. […] Do not be thinking of how little you have to bring to God, but of how much He wants to give to you. Just place yourself before, and look up into, His face; think of His love, His wonderful, tender, pitying love.”
God wants us to draw away from the world into the secret so that He can pour out His love on us there. He is a rewarder of those who seek Him and His reward is His present love in our hearts. There in the secret place we discover that our Father already knows what we need. He is ready to meet us and fill us up. He is ready to give answer and peace and strength for the duties of the day. Our Lord Jesus is telling us in this passage something that only He can know: His Father is in the secret and we must go to Him there. The world has a way of approaching God that seems right: a clamor of show and public display, but this is not the way of the Father. The Son Himself is revealing to us the path.
We have been asking the Lord to teach us to pray. We have asked Him to teach us to be true spiritual worshippers. Now we have an opportunity to follow Jesus to the secret place where God dwells. If you’d like to meet with God but don’t have any idea when and where, let’s begin praying right there. If you are already meeting with God regularly and long for this tender connection to the presence of the Father, then let’s begin there. Remember that there is no condemnation for us in Christ. God Himself is going to accomplish what He desires in us, we just have to show up and yield.
It’s been a few weeks now, that we have been talking about prayer. We continue to ask You to be our Teacher. We take the words of Dr. Murray, the words we share on this blog and put them all in submission to Your spirit. We only want Your leading, Your guidance for our particular circumstances and our particular weaknesses. Thank You for answering our prayers.
Many of us are consumed with daily tasks, with physical demands and great weariness. Many of our hearts and minds are too tired to add one more thing to the schedule, we are too afraid to fail You again. Lord, will You help us here? I ask that You would whisper to each person individually about a time and place where You could meet them. We know Your answers will be surprising and creative and so we look forward to what You will show us. We put no expectations on ourselves, we only wait to see what You will whisper to us.
Then dear Lord, we wait expectantly for You to meet us in that secret place. Oh Father, the privilege! To meet ALONE with You….to come sit at Your feet for a few moments and find rest for our souls and minds and spirits. May we become so hungry for Your presence that we cannot be satisfied. May our time with You become so vital to us that we don’t dare miss our appointment with You. For many of us that seems like an impossible thing. Lord, surprise us and delight us with Your presence.
We thank You for this.
In Your precious name, Jesus,
Next week I'll be sharing my thoughts on chapter four: After This Manner Pray or The Model Prayer