“The Hidden Riches of Prayer”, From David McIntyre (The Blessing, Power of The Spirit, Prayer Resources)

The Hidden Riches of The Secret Place; David McIntyre (from “The Hidden Life of Prayer)

The return of prayer is, in the first instance, personal and private; it is “the hidden riches” of the secret place (Isa. 45:3). Then, as it passes out into life and action, it is made manifest. The Father who is in secret, and who seeth in secret, rewards His servants “openly.”


We read that when the Pilgrims (of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress) had come almost to the end of the enchanted ground, “they perceived that a little before them was a solemn noise, as of one that was much concerned. So they went on, and looked before them; and, behold, they saw, as they thought, a man upon his knees, with his hands and eyes lifted up, and speaking, as they thought, earnestly to one that was above. They drew nigh, but could not tell what he said; so they went softly till he had done. When he had done, he got up, and began to run towards the Celestial City.”

Holiness


This is the first reward of the secret place; through prayer our graces are quickened, and holiness is wrought in us. “Holiness,” says Hewitson, “is a habit of mind—a setting of the Lord continually before one’s eyes, a constant walking with God as one with whom we are agreed.”

And in the attainment and maintenance of unbroken communion, “Prayer is amongst duties, as faith is amongst graces.” Richard Sibbes reminds us that “Prayer exercises all the graces of the Spirit,” and Flavel confirms the sentence: “You must strive,” he writes, “to excel in this, forasmuch as no grace within or service without can thrive without it.” Berridge affirms that “all decays begin in the closet; no heart thrives without much secret converse with God, and nothing will make amends for the want of it.” On the other hand, he acknowledges, “I never rose from secret prayer without some quickening. Even when I set about it with heaviness or reluctance the Lord is pleased in mercy to meet me in it.” Similarly, Fraser of Brea declares, “I find myself better and worse as I decay and increase in prayer.”


If prayer is hindered, even though it be hindered by devotion to other duties of religion, the health of the soul is impaired. Henry Martyn laments in his diary that “want of private devotional reading and shortness of prayer, through incessant sermon-making, had produced much strangeness” between God and his soul.

Communion with God is the condition of spiritual growth. It is the soil in which all the graces of the divine life root themselves. If the virtues were the work of man, we might perfect them one by one, but they are “the fruit of the Spirit,” and grow together in one
common life.

When Philip Saphir embraced Christianity, he said, “I have found a religion for my whole nature.” Holiness is the harmonious perfection, the “wholeness” of the soul.

While we abide in Christ we ought not to allow ourselves to be discouraged by the apparent slowness of our advancement in grace. In nature, growth proceeds with varying speed. Sibbes compares the progressive sanctification of believers to “the increase in herbs and trees,” which “grow at the root in winter, in the leaf in summer, and in the seed in autumn.” The first of these forms of increase seems very slow; the second is more rapid; the third rushes on to full maturity. In a few days of early autumn a field of grain will seem to ripen more than in weeks of midsummer.

Intimacy with Christ

Communion with God discovers the excellence of His character, and by beholding Him the soul is transformed. Holiness is conformity to Christ, and this is secured by a growing intimacy with Him. It is evident that this consideration opens up a vast field for reflection. We shall merely indicate two of the many directions in which it applies.


(a) First, the habit of prayerfulness produces a singular serenity of spirit. To use Bengel’s phrase, we are “built up into a recollected consciousness of God.”


When one looks into the quiet eyes of Him that sitteth upon the throne, the tremors of the spirit are stilled. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is but a noise; and the valley of the shadow of death is tuneful with songs of praise. Storms may rave beneath our feet, but the sky above is blue. We take our station with Christ in heavenly places; we dwell in the Sabbath of God. “Here I lie,” said Thomas Halyburton when his death-hour was drawing near, “pained without pain, without strength yet strong.” Seguier, a French Protestant, who was sentenced to death, was mockingly asked by one of his guards how he felt. He replied, “My soul is as a garden, full of shelter and fountains.”

There are towns in Europe which would be almost insupportably hot in midsummer were it not that rivers, issuing from the ice-fields of Switzerland, diffuse a cool and refreshing air even in the sultry noon. And so the river of the water of life, which flows from under the throne of God and the Lamb, makes glad the city of God. Jeremy Taylor says, “Prayer is the peace of our spirits, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of our recollection, the seat of our meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest.”39


(b) Again, those who continually exercise themselves in prayer are taught to rule their lives according to the will of God. This effect follows naturally upon the former, for “all noble, moral energy roots itself in moral calm.”


Prayer is the avowal of our creature-dependence. For the believer also it is the acknowledgment that he is not his own, but is, by reason of the great atonement, the “purchased possession” of the Son of God. Pius IV, hearing of Calvin’s death, exclaimed: “Ah, the strength of that proud heretic lay in this, that riches and honour were nothing to him.”

David Livingstone, in the heart of darkest Africa, writes in his Journal, “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.” Bengel spoke in the name of all the children of faith when he said, “All I am, and have, both in principle and practice, is to be summed up in this one expression—‘The Lord’s property.’ My belonging totally to Christ as my Savior is all my salvation and all my desire. I have no other glory than this, and I want no other.”

Afterwards, when death drew near, the following words were pronounced over him, “Lord Jesus, to Thee I live, to Thee I suffer, to Thee I die. Thine I am in death and in life; save and bless me, O Savior, for ever and ever. Amen.” At the words “Thine I am,” he laid his right hand upon his heart, in token of his full and hearty assent. And so he fell asleep in Jesus.

Such is the normal attitude of the redeemed soul, an attitude which prayer acknowledges and confirms.

Further, in prayer we present ourselves to God, holding our motives in His clear light, and estimating them after the counsel of His will. Thus our thoughts and feelings arrange themselves into classes (as in a process of polishing or smoothing); those that rise towards the honour of God taking precedence of those that drift downward towards the gratification of self. And so the great decisions of life are prepared. In prayer, Jacob became Israel; in prayer, Daniel saw Christ’s day, and was glad; in prayer, Saul of Tarsus received his commission to go “far hence” among the Gentiles; in prayer, the Son of Man accomplished His obedience, and embraced His cross.

It does not always happen, however, that the cardinal points of life are recognized in the very place and hour of prayer. Helmholtz, the celebrated physicist, used to say that his greatest discoveries came to him, not in the laboratory, but when he was walking, perhaps along a country road, in perfect freedom of mind. But his discoveries merely registered themselves then; they were really brought to the birth in the laboratory. And whether it be in the place of prayer, or elsewhere, that life’s great decisions frame themselves, undoubtedly it is in the silent hour that characters are molded and careers determined.


In his Autobiography George Müller gives a striking testimony: “I never remember, in all my Christian course, a period now (in March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY and PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait before God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow-men to the declarations of the Word of the Living God, I made great mistakes.”


As we present ourselves before the Lord in prayer, we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit when we yield to the inward impulse, and the Divine energy commands our being. Our plans, if we have formed them at the dictation of nature, are laid aside, and the purpose of God in relation to our lives is accepted. As we are Spirit-born, let us be Spirit controlled: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”


(c) Through the acceptance of the will of God for us, we are led out into a richer influence and a wider usefulness.

Montalembert once complained to Lacordaire, “How little it is that man can do
for his fellows! Of all his miseries this is the greatest.” It is true that we can effect little for one another by ordinary human means, but much may be done by prayer. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Prayer brings the Divine omnipotence into the occasions of life. We ask, and receive; and our joy is full.


An English scholar has told us that those who have helped him most were not learned divines nor eloquent preachers, but holy men and women who walked with God, and who revealed unconsciously the unadorned goodness which the blessed Spirit had wrought in them. Those saintly persons had looked on Christ until they were changed into His likeness; they had tarried on the Mount of God until the uncreated glory shone upon their brow.

Tradition affirms that Columbia the Celtic missionary, Ruysbroek the recluse of Groenendaal, John Welsh of Ayr, and many others, were wrapped in a soft and tempered radiance as they prayed. Such legends, no doubt, were created by the remembrance of lives that had been transfigured. “I saw a Saint. How canst thou tell that he, Thou sawest was a Saint? I
saw one like to Christ so luminously, By patient deeds of love, his mortal taint, Seemed made his groundwork for humility.”

But a changed life is not the only gift which God bestows upon us when we stand in the unseen presence. When Moses came from the Mount he was, as it were, transfigured in the eyes of the children of Israel; but he also bore in his hands the tables of testimony—the pledges of that covenant, ordered and sure, which had been sealed to him for them. His prayer had saved the people of election, and the law-tablets were the sign. It is this tarrying in the Upper Room that secures the enduement of power.

Source: The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre

Prayer resources and links

Come from the Four Winds Oh Breath, by Charles Spurgeon

See Jesus.net (Paul Miller on Prayer, Podcast)

C.S. Lewis Institute: A Season of Prayer- Prayer Resources & Links

Pray the Scriptures: Ligonier Ministries

Praying using Scripture; The Gospel Coalition

Pray The Bible; John Piper

Intercession of Gods Promises in Prayer from Desiring God; a book

A Teaching Series on Praying The Lord’s Prayer from R.C. Sproul

Core Christianity on The Lord’s Prayer

Theology of Prayer

A Puritan Mind

Puritan Prayers Download

Praying the Psalms from the Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition; on Prayer

Singing the Psalms with Seedbed

Singing the Psalms with ChurchWorks

Prayer, Music and Worship Podcasts

Confessions of St Augustine audio podcast

Prayer Pod, Prayer and poetry with music

The Moms in Prayer Podcast

Pray as You Go Podcast

The Daily Still Podcast, Guided Christian Meditations and Devotions

Worship Interludes; Piano Instrumentals for Meditation, Prayer and Devotion

Ancient and Contemporary with Liturgy; a beautiful Candlelit Service

Prayers from Taize, a Community in France

Top Worship and Praise Songs of 2022

Share God’s Heart

The Jesus Film Project

Every Home for Christ

Mission to the World

Perspectives.org

“The Fullness of Joy, Solitude, Silence & Life in Christ” from Dallas Willard (Soul Care, Spiritual Disciplines, Presence of God)

Man on top of a mountain standing contemplates the dawn

Opening to the Fullness of Joy

Personal soul care also requires attending to our feelings. Emotions are a real component of life and of our lives in Christ. Some ministers allow their emotions to defeat them.

We do well to note, however, that love is the foundation of the spiritual life and joy is a key component in the Christ life. Joy is not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being. Hope in the goodness of God is joy’s indispensable support.

In a moment of worship and praise, Paul spontaneously expressed a benediction on the Christians in Rome: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13, NASB). This verse addresses the profound needs of the emotional side of the Christian’s life.

The great central terms of life in Christ are “faith,” “hope,” “love,” and “peace.” These are not just feelings; in substance, they are not feelings. They are conditions involving every part of an individual’s life, including the body and the social context. They serve to equip us for the engagements of life. They do, however, have feelings that accompany them, and these positive feelings abundantly characterize those living in the presence of God. These feelings displace the bitter and angry feelings, that characterize life “in the flesh”—life in human energies only. They even transform the sickening emotional tones that permeate and largely govern the world around us—even many times the Church world.

Jesus taught us to abide in God’s love “that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15: 10-11, NASB). Our joy is full when there is no room for more. Abiding in God’s love provides the unshakable source of joy, which is in turn the source of peace. All is based in the reality of God’s grace and goodness.

Faith, hope, love, joy, and peace—the “magnificent five”—are inseparable from one another and reciprocally support each other. Try to imagine any one without the others!

Solitude and Silence
Among the practices that can help us attend to soul care at a basic level are solitude and silence. We practice these by finding ways to be alone and away from talk and noise. We rest, we observe, we “smell the roses”—dare we say it?—we do nothing. This discipline can be used of God as a means of grace. In it we may even find another reminder of grace—that we are saved, justified by His redeeming power—not by our strivings and achievements.

In drawing aside for lengthy periods of time, we seek to rid ourselves of the “corrosion” of soul that accrues from constant interaction with others and the world around us. In this place of quiet communion, we discover again that we do have souls, that we indeed have inner beings to be nurtured. Then we begin to experience again the presence of God in the inner sanctuary, speaking to and interacting with us. We understand anew that God will not compete for our attention. We must arrange time for our communion with Him as we draw aside in solitude and silence.

The psalmist said, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Ps. 46: 10, NASB). And immediately following this, the writer affirms the success of God’s mission on earth: “’I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (vv. 10-11, NASB).

Other translations of this verse read, “Be still, and know” (NIV) or “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me” (TM). God’s provision for us and for His work through us is adequate. We do not have to “make it happen.” We must stop shouldering the burdens of “outcomes.” These are safely in His hands. Someone insightfully said, “The greatest threat to devotion to Christ is service for Christ.”

What a paradox! This is so easily a challenge for many ministers. Allowing service for Christ to steal our devotion to Him is a radical failure in personal soul care. But it is one from which the practice of communing with Christ in times of solitude and silence can deliver us.

Time is Made, Not “Found”
A response to giving attention to personal soul care often is, “I don’t have time for extensive solitude and silence. I have too much to do.” The truth is you don’t have time not to practice solitude and silence. No time is more profitably spent than that used to heighten the quality of an intimate walk with God. If we think otherwise, we have been badly educated. The real question is, “Will we take time to do what is necessary for an abundant life and an abundant ministry, or will we try to ‘get by’ without it?”

So a couple of words of counsel are appropriate for our attending to the inner life. First, God never gives anyone too much to do. We do that to ourselves or allow others to do it to us. We may be showing our lack of confidence in God’s power and goodness, though it may be that our models and education have failed us. Second, the exercise of God’s power in ministry never, by itself, amends character, and it rarely makes up for our own foolishness. God’s power can be actively and wisely sought and received by us only as we seek to grow by grace into Christlikeness. Power with Christlike character is God’s unbeatable combination of triumphant life in the kingdom of God on earth and forever. Power without Christ’s character gives us our modern-day Sampsons and Sauls.

Knowing Christ through times away in solitude and silence will “let our joy be full” (see John 16:24). It will bring over us a pervasive sense of well-being, no matter what is happening around us. Hurry and the loneliness of leadership will be eliminated. We can allow the peace of God to sink deeply into our lives and extend through our relationships to others (see Matt. 10:12-13).

A young Christian who had been guided into the effective practice of solitude and silence had this to say:

The more I practice this discipline, the more I appreciate the strength of silence. The less I become skeptical and judgmental, the more I learn to accept the things I didn’t like about others, and the more I accept them as uniquely created in the image of God. The less I talk, the fuller are words spoken at an appropriate time. The more I value others, the more I serve them in small ways, and the more I enjoy and celebrate my life. The more I celebrate, the more I realize that God has been giving me wonderful things in my life, and the less I worry about my future. I will accept and enjoy what God is continuously giving to me. I think I am beginning to really enjoy God.4

Experiencing God through the practice of connecting with Him via this discipline brings rich rewards.

Planning for Fullness of Life
Our discussion so far has been more illustrative than expository. Solitude and silence are absolutely basic in our responsibility to soul care. But they also open before us the whole area of disciplines for the spiritual life. It is vital for us to keep before us that there are tried and true ways we can pursue toward abundant life in Christ. These ways are often referred to as “spiritual disciplines.”5 We can and must incorporate these into our lives as completely reliable ways of personal soul care. There is no substitute for this.

A person could make a long list of such disciplines, drawing on the history of Christ’s people. The list would certainly include fasting, which when rightly practiced has incredible power for the transformation of character and for ministry. On this list would also be such practices as frugality, service, celebration, prayer (as a discipline), journaling, fellowship, accountability relationships, submission, confession, and many others.

There is no such thing as a complete list of the disciplines. Any activity that is in our power and enables us to achieve by grace what we cannot achieve by direct effort is a discipline of the spiritual life.6

As we seek to know Christ by incorporating appropriate disciplines into our lives, we must keep in mind that they are not ways of earning merit. They also are not paths of suffering or self-torment. They are not heroic. They are not righteousness, but they are wisdom.

Once we team that grace is not opposed to effort (action)—though it is opposed to earning (attitude)—the way is open for us to “work out” all that is involved in our salvation, not only “with fear and trembling” but also with the calm assurance that it is God who is at work in us to accomplish all of His goodwill (see Phil. 2:12-13, NASB).

When we have settled into a life of sensible disciplines with our ever-present Teacher, then Peter’s admonition (2 Pet. 1:5-7) to add virtue to our faith, knowledge or understanding to our virtue, self-control to our knowledge, patience to our self-control, godliness to our patience, brotherly kindness to our godliness, and divine love (agape) to our brotherly kindness will prove to be a sensible plan for life. God will use this course of action to help others through our ministries as well.

“As long as you practice these things,” Peter continues (v. 10, NASB), “you will never stumble.” In our walk with God in Christ there will be provided to us, from “His riches in glory” (see Phil. 4:19, NASB), sweetness and strength of character, profundity of insight and understanding, and abundance of power to manifest the glory of God in life and in ministry—no matter the circumstances! And “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Pet. 1: 11)

Dallas Willard

dwillard.org

Notes

  • For development of this point see my Renovation of the Heart, especially chapter 2 (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002). Return to text.
  • For some illustrations of how this works, see Frank Laubach, “Letters of a Modern Mystic” and “Game with Minutes,” in Frank C. Laubach: Man of Prayer (Syracuse, N.Y.: Laubach Literacy International, “New Readers Press,” 1990). Return to text.
  • Thomas WatsonAll Things for Good (1663; reprint, Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), 74. Return to text.
  • Quoted from Dallas WillardThe Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 165. Return to text.
  • For further discussion see Richard FosterCelebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978), as well as his Streams of Living Water (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). See also Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines.Return to text.
  • See FosterCelebration of Discipline, as well as Chapter 9 of my The Spirit of the Disciplines, for ways of listing and classifying many of the disciplines and for discussions of any particular ones. Return to text.

 

“Joy Comes in The Morning”, a worship poem from L.Willows

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Joy Comes in The Morning

Joy comes in the morning.
Faith rises, it deepens, renewed.
We live on with lives ever seeking,
hope in the day of Love’s view.

Come, walk in the dawning.
Pray – call forth His song.
Life, as stirred in the making.
Hearts, all awakened and strong.

Joy comes in the morning.
Faith rises, it deepens, renewed.
We walk on with lives ever God-ward
wrapped to full in hope’s glory, gratitude.

© 2019 Linda Willows

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

And those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:10

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5