Taken and adapted from, “The Privy Key to Heaven”
Written by Thomas Brooks
Is it so that closet prayer or private prayer is such an indispensable duty, that Christ himself has laid upon all who are not willing to do so, to lie under the woeful brand of being hypocrites? Then this doctrine condemns five sorts of people.
(1.) First, It looks sourly and sadly upon all those who put off secret prayer, private prayer, until they are moved to it by the Spirit; for by this sad delusion many have been kept from secret prayer many weeks, many months; oh that I might not say, many years! Though it be a very at season to pray when the Spirit moves us to pray—yet it is not the only season to pray, Isaiah 62:1; Psalm 123:1-2; Galatians 4:6. He who makes piety his business, will pray as daily for daily grace as he does pray daily for daily bread: Luke 18:1, “And he spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Romans 12:12, “Persistent in prayer.” The Greek is a metaphor taken from hunting dogs, which never give up the chase until they have got their prey. A Christian must not only pray—but hold on in prayer, until he has got the heavenly prize.
We are always needing; and therefore we had need be praying always.
The world is always alluring; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. Satan is always a-tempting; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. We are always a-sinning; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. We are in dangers always; and therefore we had need be praying always. We are dying always, 1 Corinthians 15:31; and therefore we had need be praying always. Man’s whole life is but a lingering death; man no sooner begins to live—but he begins to die. When one was asked why he prayed six times a day, he only gave this answer, “I must die, I must die, I must die.” Dying Christians had need be praying Christians, and those who are always a-dying had need be always a-praying. Certainly prayerless families are graceless families, and prayerless people are graceless people, Jeremiah 10:25. It were better ten thousand times that we had never been born into the world, than that we should go stillborn out of the world. But,
(2.) Secondly, This truth looks sourly and sadly upon those who pray not at all, neither in their families nor in their closets. Among all God’s children, there is not one possessed with a dumb devil. Prayerless people are forsaken of God, blinded by Satan, hardened in sin, and every breath they draw liable to all temporal, spiritual, and eternal judgments. Prayer is that part of natural worship due to God, which none will deny but stark atheists, Psalm 14:1.
It is observable that among the worst of men, Turks, and the worst of Turks, the Moors, it is usual with them to pray six times a day.
(1.) Before the daybreak they pray for day.
(2.) When it is day, they give thanks for day.
(3.) At noon, they thank God for half the day past.
(4.) After that, they pray for a good sunset.
(5.) And after that, they thank God for the day past.
And then, sixthly and lastly, they pray for a good night after their day.
Certainly these very Moors will one day rise in judgment against them who cast off prayer, who live in a total neglect of prayer, who allow so many suns and moons to rise and set upon their heads without any solemn calling upon God. I have read of a man who, being sick, and afraid of death, fell to his prayers; and, to move God to hear him, told him “that he was no common beggar, and that he had never troubled him with his prayers before; and if he would but hear him at that time, he would never trouble him again.” This world is full of such profane, blasphemous, atheistical wretches. But,
(3.) Thirdly, This truth looks very sourly and sadly upon such who are all for public prayer—but never regard private prayer; who are all for going up to the temple—but never care for going into their closets. This is most palpable hypocrisy, for a man to be very zealous for public prayer—but very cold and careless as to private prayer. He who pretends conscience in the one, and makes no conscience of the other, is a hypocrite indeed, Matthew 23:5, and Matthew 6:1-2,5. And the devil knows well enough how to make his markets of all such hypocrites that are all for the prayers of the church—but total Gallios as to private prayer, Acts 18:17. Such as perform all their private devotion in the church—but not in the chamber, do put too great a slight upon the authority of Christ, who says, “When you pray, enter into your chamber.” He does not say, “When you pray, go to the church,” but, “When you pray, go into your chamber.” But,
(4.) Fourthly, This truth looks sadly and sourly upon such who in their closets pray with a loud clamorous voice. A Christian should shut both the door of his closet and the door of his lips so close, that none should hear without what he says within. “Enter into your closet,” says Christ, “and when you have shut your door, pray.” But what need a man shut his closet door, if he may prays with a clamorous voice, if he makes such a noise as all in the street or all in the house may hear him? The hen, when she lays her eggs, gets into a hole, a corner; but then she makes such a noise with her cackling, that she tells all in the house where she is, and about what she is. Such Christians who in their closets do imitate the hen, do rather pray to be seen, heard, and observed by men, than out of any noble design to glorify God, or to pour out their souls before him who sees in secret.
Sometimes children, when they are vexed, or afraid of the rod, will run behind the door, or get into a dark hole, and there they will lie crying, and sighing, and sobbing, that all the house may know where they are. Oh it is a childish thing so to cry, and sigh, and sob in our closets, as to tell all in the house where we are, and about what work we are. Well! Christians, for an effectual redress of this evil, frequently and seriously consider of these five things.
[1.] First, That God sees in secret.
[2.] Secondly, That God has a quick ear, and is taken more with the voice of the heart, than he is with the clamor of the mouth. God can easily hear the most secret breathings of your soul. God is more curious in observing the messages delivered by the heart, than he is those who are only delivered by the mouth. He who prays aloud in private, seems to tell others, that God does not understand the secret desires, and thoughts, and workings of his people’s hearts.
[3.] Thirdly, It is not fit, it is not convenient nor expedient, that any should be acquainted with our secret prayers—but God and our own souls. Now it is as much our duty to look to what is expedient, as it is to look to what is lawful, 2 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me—but all things are not expedient.” So 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me—but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me—but all things edify not.” Now it is so far from being expedient, that it is very high folly for men to lay open their secret infirmities unto others, that will rather deride them, than lift up a prayer for them.
[4.] Fourthly, Loud prayers may be a hindrance and disturbance to others, who may be busied near us.
[5.] Fifthly and lastly, Hannah prayed and yet spoke never a word. Her heart was full—but her voice was not heard, 1 Samuel 1:11. Moses prays and cries, and yet lets fall never a word: Exodus 14:15, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Why do you cry unto me?” Moses did not cry with any audible voice—but with inward sighs, and secret breathings, and wrestlings of soul; and these inward and secret cries, which made no noise, carried the day with God; for Moses is heard and answered, and his people are delivered. Oh the prevalence of those prayers which make no noise in the ears of others!
[6.] Sixth and lastly, This truth looks sourly and sadly upon those who do all they can to hinder and discourage others from this duty of duties, private prayer; and that either by deriding or vilifying of the duty, or else by denying of it to be a duty, or else by their daily neglect of this duty, or else by denying those who are under them, time and opportunity for the discharge of this duty. In Matthew 23:13, you have a woe pronounced against those who will neither go to heaven themselves, nor allow others to go, who are willing to enter into an everlasting rest. And so I say—Woe to those parents, and woe to those husbands, and woe to those masters and mistresses—who will neither pray in their closets themselves, nor allow their children, nor their wives, nor their servants, to pour out their souls before the Lord in a corner.
O sirs! how will you answer this to your consciences, when you shall lie upon a dying bed! And how will you answer it to the Judge of all the world, when you shall stand before a judgment seat? Certainly all their sins, and all their neglects, and all their spiritual losses, that might have been prevented by their secret prayers, by their closet communion with God—will one day be charged upon your account! And oh that you were all so wise as to lay these things so to heart, that you may never hinder any who are under your care or charge, from private prayer anymore