The Privy Key of Heaven
(A Discourse of Closet Prayer)
by Thomas Brooks, published during
the awful plague of London in 1665.
"But when you pray, go into your room, close
the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in
secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6
To those who are
strangers to closet prayer
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 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, Isa 62:1;
Psalm 123:1-2; Gal 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 Thess 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." Eph 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." Rom
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
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
Cor 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, Jer 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
(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
(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 an
hypocrite indeed, Matt 23:5, and Matt 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 Cor 8:10; 1 Cor 6:12, "All things are
lawful unto me—but all things are not expedient." So 1 Cor 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
[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 Sam
1:11. Moses prays and cries, and yet lets fall never a word: Exod 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 prevalency of those prayers which make no noise in the
ears of others!
[5.] Fifthly 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 Matt 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 any more!