Every Christian to His Closet!
James Smith, 1864
True prayer is the breathing of the soul toward God. Wherever there is spiritual life — there must be prayer. But as many Christians are alive — but not lively, it is often necessary to stir them up to "pray without ceasing."
Without trials, temptations, and troubles, or the special operations of the Holy Spirit on the soul — prayer will become formal, lifeless, and inefficient. Therefore we are so frequently tried by Divine Providence, spoken to in God's holy Word, and stirred up by the Holy and ever-blessed Spirit.
A voice now seems to be calling to the Lord's Church, to every member of that Church, and it says, "Every Christian to his closet!" That every Christian has some special place for prayer, either in the house or in the open air, may be taken for granted; and such spots become in time consecrated places, where we expect to meet with God, and hold fellowship with him. A Christian closeted with God is a sight an angel looks upon with interest; nor can we think of it but with peculiar emotions. Lately all has been bustle in the Church; our public meetings have been held, reports read, speeches made, interest excited, money subscribed, and now "every Christian to his closet." This is what is necessary. Every day some time should be set apart for special prayer. For if ever special prayer was necessary, it is now. Let us, then, enter into our closet, shut our door, and pray unto our Father in secret.
The Father invites us. He says, "Let me hear your voice." He loves to hear us. He waits to listen to us. He is prepared to bless us. It is in his loving heart to do us good. We have not, because we ask not — and not because God is unprepared or unwilling to bestow.
Jesus is before the throne for us. He has his priestly garments on. The precious incense is in his hands. He sympathizes with us. He ever lives to intercede for us. True, he knows our backwardness to pray, our coldness in prayer, and all the infirmities that compass us about; but he says, "Think not that I will accuse you unto the Father." Oh, no! he will plead for us — but he will never turn our accuser.
The Holy Spirit urges us. We often feel his promptings. We often hear his exhortations. He is the Spirit of prayer. He helps our infirmities in prayer. He is often grieved by our prayerlessness. He takes us by the hand in tender love, and says, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord."
The Church needs our prayers. Look at her thin congregations. Look at her undisciplined troops. Look at her neglected prayer meetings. Look at her empty treasury. Look at her vacant pulpits. Look at her wandering tribes. Look — look where you will, from what point you please — a voice will be heard, if you attentively listen, saying, "Every Christian to his closet!"
The ministry requires your prayers. The standard-bearers are ready to faint. The laborers sigh in the harvest field. There is a lack of power in the ministry. The word falls like the snow-flake, and makes but little impression. Sinners come and go, and there are but few converted to God. Impressions are made — but they are not deep, abiding, and renovating. The seed falls in the stony places, among the thorns, or on the way side. We sow much — but we reap but little. There is a lack of unction. There is a dryness, a dullness, a deadness about our ministerial communications. The word is not like the holy anointing oil of old, which filled the house, and delighted every heart. It does not glide into the soul, softening, sanctifying, and elevating all its powers. Therefore our members are not thorough-going, hard-working, and energetic Christians. From the thousand pulpits of our land, in every section of the one Church of Christ, there is a call to the sacramental host of God's elect, "Every Christian to his closet."
The world demands your prayers. It still lies in the Wicked One. It is still "full of the habitations of cruelty." Darkness still "covers the earth, and gross darkness the people." The field of labor is the world. But in vain we send out our foreign, or employ our home and city missionaries — unless the Spirit is poured upon us from Heaven. Thorns and thistles will it still bring forth unto us. We plough on the rock; we sow on the sand; we labor in vain, and spend our strength for nothing, so far as spiritual cultivation is concerned — without the Holy Spirit. Are missionaries to be successful? Is the world to be claimed for Christ? Would we have the prophecies and predictions of the Holy Scripture fulfilled? Then "every Christian to his closet," and instead of the thorn will come up the fir tree, instead of the brier will come up the myrtle tree, and "it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
Our country, our beloved Old England, needs your prayers. Popery is insolent. Puseyism is powerful. Infidelity is rampant. Saints are divided. Politics are poisoning many professors. Look where we will, to the Senate house or the sanctuary, to the palace or the cottage, to princes or peasants, to professors or profane — all seem to sign or cry aloud, "Every Christian to his closet." "God has spoken once, twice have I heard this, that power belongs unto God." The power that guides the vessel of the State, the power that steers the ark of the Church, the power that preserves our liberties, the power that crowns our efforts, the power that curbs our foes, and the power that encourages our friends — alike belongs unto God. If, therefore, we would be loyal subjects, if we would be good soldiers of the cross, if we would be successful servants of God, if we would see the good of God's chosen, rejoice in the gladness of his nation, and glory with his inheritance — let every Christian betake himself to his closet.
Let us seek the Spirit of prayer, fix times for prayer, and determine to persevere in prayer. Let us pray frequently. Let us pray fervently. Let us plead earnestly. We not only need more prayer, but a different kind of prayer. Our prayers have been too general, too formal, too common-place. There has not been that point, that directness, that downright earnestness which there ought to be. We do not take hold on God. We do not refuse to take a denial, saying as Jacob did, "I will not let you go — unless you bless me." We forget the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18), and the parable of the friend and the three loaves (Luke 11), with its application, "I say unto you, Ask, Seek, Knock." Be importunate. Take no denial. "Cry day and night." "Give him no rest." Pray as if you meant every word you say — as if you wanted every blessing you ask for — as if you did not intend to stop until you had succeeded. These are the kind of prayers which God approves of, which the church needs, which the times require, which we most affectionately request our brethren to present.
Such prayers would rouse the enmity of Satan, stir the drowsy Church to its very depth, shake the wide world, and bring down the power of God upon us all. Such prayers would carry our hearts up to Heaven, bring the fullness of the Spirit into our soul; and, as grace makes us more than men, such prayers would make us more than common Christians. Let us endeavor to pray in faith, believe that God is love, that he delights in mercy, that he rejoices over us to do us good, that he is more ready to hear than we are to pray, that he means every word in his exceeding great and precious promises, that he is now in the same mind as when he made them, as when his Apostles pleaded them, and the Holy Spirit came down and proved them true; believing that real prayer goes directly to the heart of God, stirs us his tenderest sympathies, and brings him down to work for our welfare.
When Israel in Egypt sighed, cried, and groaned before God — he could not rest on his throne — but came down into the bush, brought Moses to his foot, and as one full of the tenderest sympathy, said, "I have heard, I have heard the groanings of my people which are in Egypt, and am come down to deliver them." Let us pray in hope, that is, expecting what we pray for, and expecting it because it is needed, because it is good, because God has promised it, because Jesus is worthy, in whose name we ask it, and because God can glorify himself in bestowing it.
Beloved! would you please God? Would you honor Jesus? Would you sow to the Spirit? Would you disappoint Satan? Would you rise above the world? Would you be an honor to the Church? Would you be useful in your day and generation? Would you be happy and holy in life? Would you be peaceful and victorious in death? In a word, would you possess enjoy, and manifest the real power of true religion? Then, to your closet! Be much with God; obtain much from God; communicate everything to God. This is the way . . .
to act for God wisely,
to give to God liberally,
to walk with God comfortably,
to fight for God victoriously,
to work for God successfully, and
to be conformed more and more to the moral image of God daily.
We must have more prayer. We must have a different kind of prayer. The times call for it. Eternity calls for it. The Church calls for it. The world calls for it. Our religious societies call for it. Our discouraged pastors and preachers call for it. From the east, from the west, from the north, and from the south; from the rolling ocean, from the flowing river, from the lofty mountains, from the lowly valleys, from the populous cities, from the scattered hamlets, from the mansions of the great, from the cottages of the poor, from the Slave States of America, and from this blessed land of the free — the voice comes rolling in tones of thunder, or floats on the gentle breeze, in almost in audible accents, it cries, it calls, it whispers, "Every Christian to his closet!"
Shall the voice be heard? Shall the cry be regarded? Shall the admonition be received? Shall the closet be visited as it never has been heretofore? Shall the private, powerful, persevering prayers of the saints bring down upon us the Spirit from Heaven, that the wilderness may become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest? Men of Israel! will you help? Servants of God! will you assist? Courteous reader! will you help? Will you? And will you begin today?