Thanks For The Privilege Of Communion With God
Thank God for “White Privilege” in Missions?
Someone asked me to speak more directly to the issue of “white privilege.” Previously, I responded to an American-born Chinese woman who complained of white privilege among missionaries. My article highlighted two big ideas.
We need to rethink how to communicate ideas about “white privilege” and related subjects. We need to define our terms clearly. We should have a generous spirit, particularly when speaking about missionaries who intentionally serve people from other cultures.
Not everything can be justly blamed on “white privilege.” At various times and places, we are all on the outside looking in. For any situation that troubles us, we can probably imagine 10 contributing factors besides skin color.
If we’re not careful, we will unwittingly…
- perpetuate division and resentment
- accept the hermeneutic that hurt feelings validate truth
- close ourselves to correction and constructive dialogue
In this post, I want to address “white privilege” head on. And I want to do so by looking at Scripture, something not always seen in these conversations.
“White privilege” is a fact, not a problem
The term “white privilege” does more harm than good. It could simply describe a fact––white people enjoy certain privileges. Or it might subtly accuse people of discrimination, even if it’s unintentional. The latter often happens when we talk about what others do to us, how others ignore us, or why others make us feel marginalized.
“White privilege” is a fact in many circumstances. But it’s not everywhere. Don’t confuse America and the rest of the world. In many contexts, being white grants you the privilege of being killed first. In many environments, Asian voices are given more access and credibility than white people, simply due to skin color.
This discussion has a fundamental problem. It focuses on a narrow spectrum of privilege. Why be so selective? We could also talk about “Western privilege.” Having a passport from America, Canada and Australia gives you many similar privileges, regardless of skin color. What about privileges wealth or gender?
Stop and ask yourself, “What are you really against?”
It is not privilege. It’s prejudice.I agree “white privilege” exists in much of the American church. But I doubt most people want to take away those privileges. Instead, we want everyone to enjoy the same privileges.
Using the name “privilege” when we mean prejudice only perpetuates resentment. If we confuse the two, people will naturally become defensive.
From Blaming to Blessing
Rather than linger on the fact of “white privilege” (or any other type), we should pay more attention to our response. Only then can we move beyond blaming to being a blessing. What if we take a different perspective on the subject, one that can produce positive responses?
Let’s start with a constructive definition of “white privilege.” Kyle Howard has one of the best I’ve seen:
By the way, that definition comes from a brother with black skin and an Asian wife. I recommend you read his post on the topic.
This perspective gets us beyond the destructive cycle of shame, blame, apathy, exploitation, guilt, and reverse discrimination. If you are born white, “white privilege” by itself should not elicit guilt feelings. Rather, you should be thankful!
Kyle is correct to say,
The fundamental question is how will the privilege be stewarded? Will it be used for self-advancement or Kingdom advancement? Pastor, your people, need to understand that trying to argue against white privilege is Paul arguing against the privilege of Roman Citizenship. He never did! He embraced it, used it, and advanced the Gospel with it.
This is a helpful starting point. He directs our attention to the Bible. Where do we see anything “white privilege” in the Bible?
“Jewish Privilege” & “Roman Privilege”
In the Bible, we see something similar to “white privilege.” It is often called “grace.”
First, the people of Israel enjoyed many advantages as a result of birth not given to others. Paul celebrates God’s grace in Romans.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Rom 3:1–2)
Later he adds,
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen (9:4–5)
To Gentiles, Paul writes,Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Eph 2:11–12)
Similarly, cf. Ps 147:19–20; Deut 26:18–19 and others.
Should we bemoan Israel’s advantages in history? Were they not blessed in order to be a blessing to all nations? In that process, Jews enjoyed the privilege of having God’s word and presence among them in a way that Gentiles did not.
Second, Paul used “Roman privilege” multiple times (cf. Acts 16:16–40, 21:39ff; 25:12ff). One scholar summarizes what this meant for Paul.
The importance of being a Roman citizen in NT times was that one was, to a degree at any rate, a member of the governing community––in many ways occupying a position analogous to that of the British citizen during the hey-day of the Raj. The Roman citizen was privileged.
In theory he could travel anywhere without problems, being everywhere protected by the Roman law. He was not subjected to the local law unless he consented (though such consent would be usual in business), and he could take matters into his own courts when these were sitting.
He owed allegiance to Rome, and Rome would protect him.
Paul wisely took advantage of his privileges. In Philippi, he shames the city officials when they freed Paul and Silas. Acts 16:17–39 states,
But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.
” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.
This move effectively served to vindicate Paul and the church from slanderous charges of lawlessness.In Acts 21, the Roman tribune thought Paul was a revolutionary. Paul replies, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people” (21:39).
Paul’s pedigree and the education (21:40–22:3) not only afford him the chance to address the crowd; he was also equipped to handle the whirlwind of conversations to follow (before the Jewish council, Felix the Governor, Claudius, Festus, among others)
Of course, Paul famously appeals to Caesar in Acts 25:12, which saved his skin from the Jews who conspired to kill him. In the years that follow, Paul is given numerous opportunities for fruitful ministry.
Because he wisely used his “Roman privilege”, he spent his prison time in Rome “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31).
Praise God for His grace. May we use whatever privileges we have for the sake of Christ’s honor.
In the next post, I’ll offer a few suggested ways people can act to use our privileges (whether economic, gender, skin color, education, etc.) in a ministry setting.
Until then, enjoy this clip from Seinfeld that reminds me of the “Asian privilege” that also exists in mission circles. Francis Lyall, “Romans Law in the Writings of Paul: Aliens and Citizens” Evangelical Quarterly 48, no. 1 (Jan–Mar 1976): 10.
Prayers After Holy Communion (EN)
Read in English according to the Jordanville Prayer Book, 1986. Courtesy for POMOG parishioners only. Other visitors are encouraged to purchase these prayers at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross web-site.
Glory to Thee, O God, Glory to Thee, O God, Glory to Thee, O God.
Prayer of Thanksgiving, 1
I thank Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast not rejected me, a sinner, but hast vouchsafed me to be a communicant of Thy Holy Things. I thank Thee that Thou hast vouchsafed me, the unworthy, to partake of Thy most pure and heavenly Gifts.
But, O Master, Lover of mankind, Who for our sake didst die and didst rise again, and didst bestow upon us these dread and life-giving Mysteries for the well-being and sanctification of our souls and bodies, grant that these may be even unto me for the healing of both soul and body, for the averting of everything hostile, for the enlightenment of the eyes of my heart, for the peace of the powers of my soul, for faith unashamed, for love unfeigned, for the fullness of wisdom, for the keeping of Thy commandments, for an increase of Thy divine grace, and for the attainment of Thy kingdom; that being preserved by them in Thy holiness, I may remember Thy grace always, and no longer live for myself, but for Thee, our Master and Benefactor; and thus when I shall have departed this life in hope of life eternal, I may attain unto everlasting rest, where the sound of them that keep festival is unceasing, and the delight is endless of them that behold the ineffable beauty of Thy countenance. For Thou art the true desire and the unutterable gladness of them that love Thee, O Christ our God, and all creation doth hymn Thee unto the ages. Amen.
Prayer 2, of Basil the Great
O Master Christ God, King of the ages and Creator of all things, I thank Thee for all the good things which Thou hast bestowed upon me, and for the communion of Thy most pure and life creating Mysteries.
I pray Thee, therefore, O Good One and Lover of mankind: Keep me under Thy protection and in the shadow of Thy wings; and grant me, even until my last breath, to partake worthily, with a pure conscience, of Thy Holy Things, unto the remission of sins and life eternal.
For Thou art the Bread of life, the Source of holiness, the Giver of good things; and unto Thee do we send up glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Prayer 3, Verses of Metaphrastes
O Thou Who givest me willingly Thy Flesh as food, Thou Who art fire that doth consume the unworthy, let me not be scorched, O my Creator. But rather, enter Thou into my members, into all my joints, my reins, my heart. Burn up the thorns of all my sins. Purify my soul, sanctify my thoughts.
Strengthen my substance together with my bones. Enlighten my simple five senses. Nail down the whole of me with the fear of Thee. Ever protect, preserve, and keep me from every soul-corrupting deed and word. Purify, cleanse, and adorn me; make me comely, give me understanding, and enlighten me.
Show me to be the dwelling-place of Thy Spirit alone, and no longer the habitation of sin; that from me as Thine abode through the entry of Communion, every evildoer, every passion may flee as from fire.As intercessors I offer unto Thee all the saints, the commanders of the bodiless hosts, Thy Forerunner, the wise Apostles, and further, Thine undefiled, pure Mother, whose entreaties do Thou accept, O my compassionate Christ, and make Thy servant a child of light.
For Thou alone art our sanctification, O Good One, and the radiance of our souls, and unto Thee as God and Master, we all send up glory, as is meet, every day.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, may Thy holy Body be unto me for life eternal, and Thy precious Blood for the remission of sins; and may this Eucharist be unto me for joy, health, and gladness. And at Thy dread Second Coming vouchsafe me, a sinner, to stand at the right hand of Thy glory, through the intercessions of Thy most pure Mother and of all the saints.
Prayer 5, to the Most Holy Theotokos
O most holy Lady Theotokos, light of my darkened soul, my hope, protection, refuge, consolation, my joy: I thank thee that thou hast vouchsafed me, who am unworthy, to be a partaker of the most pure Body and precious Blood of thy Son.
O thou who gavest birth to the True Light, do thou enlighten the spiritual eyes of my heart; thou who gavest birth to the Source of immortality, revive me who am dead in sin; thou who art the lovingly-compassionate Mother of the merciful God, have mercy on me, and grant me compunction and contrition in my heart, and humility in my thoughts, and the recall of my thoughts from captivity. And vouchsafe me, until my last breath, to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the most pure Mysteries, for the healing of both soul and body; and grant me tears of repentance and confession, that I may hymn and glorify thee all the days of my life, for blessed and most glorious art thou unto the ages. Amen.
Prayer of St. Symeon
Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples, a light of revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Troparion, Tone 8
Grace shining forth from thy mouth a beacon hath illumined the universe, and disclosed to the world treasures of uncovetousness, and shown us the heights of humility; but while instructing by thy words, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede with the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Kontakion, Tone 6
From the heavens hast thou received divine grace and by thy lips thou dost teach all to worship the One God in Trinity, O John Chrysostom, all-blessed righteous one. Rightly do we acclaim thee, for thou art a teacher revealing things divine.
Liturgy of St. Basil the Great: Troparion, Tone 1
Thy fame hath gone forth into all the earth, which hath received thy word. Thereby thou hast divinely taught the Faith; thou hast made manifest the nature of created things; thou hast made the moral life of men a royal priesthood. O Basil, our righteous father, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Kontakion, Tone 4
Thou didst prove to be an unshakable foundation of the Church, giving to all mortals an inviolate lordship, and sealing it with thy doctrines, O righteous Basil, revealer of heavenly things.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame, O mediation unto the Creator unfailing, disdain not the suppliant voices of sinners; but be thou quick, O good one, to help us who in faith cry unto thee; hasten to intercession and speed thou to make supplication, thou who dost ever protect, O Theotokos, them that honour thee.
Lord, have mercy. (Twelve times)
More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
It is Possible to Have Ongoing Communion with God Through Unceasing Prayer
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While praying for a friend, I saw she needed God’s peace and rest and I felt led to write her a letter to encourage her. As I wrote, I received a revelation about contemplative/ interior prayer that I would to share with you. I discovered a life of continual experience of and communion with God, where the refreshing my friend needed can always be found!
The letter is below. It’s kind of lengthy, but fairly practical and I know it will be helpful if you want to live in a place of continual experience of God and His love.
Letter to a Tired and Troubled Friend
I wanted to let you know what the Father showed me for you and give you a couple of verses specifically regarding prayer and experiencing God more deeply.
I believe this letter will be helpful to you as it is full of practical insights I’ve gleaned through years of prayer and observation. But, you don’t have to believe a lick of it. Test it for yourself.
Go to God and ask Him about it, and trust Him!
- Meet God in the secret place of your heart. Turn to the Lord ‘within.‘ (Matthew 6:6; Colossians 1:27). This has revolutionized my life! My prayer life is honestly so much better now that I meet God consistently in this way.
Saint Augustine said, as one who already knew Jesus, “I wasted many years of prayer searching for God without before I realized He was within.”
- It’s in our hearts that the Lord gives us intimate, experiential knowledge of His glory – who He is – as we meet Christ there.
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
- Embrace Prayer of the Quiet / Heart. This has been widely practiced by saints of God across centuries. This prayer is described in Philippians 4:6-7.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Prayer of the Quiet / Heart
As soon as you start to pray or talk or commune, a relational process begins. God is not slow to answer and He brings up stuff that is important to you so you don’t have to bear it.
For example, He will remind you of little things that you may consider your mind is wandering. But, He’s immensely practical and so graciously helpful.
Just have a pen handy and write those things down for afterwards and entrust them to His care and the empowerment of His grace. It’s honoring to him, and helpful for you!
Know this: the righteous live by the faith of God, what He believes. All of life is meant to be lived by grace. Work. Marriage. Friendships. Raising children.
Exercise! Anything, you name it, is meant to be lived in and experienced by the propelling influence of grace.
Salvation encompasses the totality of life, and it is not a work! It is the gift of God, so that no one may boast except in Him who has done and does it for us!
The new creation is in Eden and Psalm 23. That’s what the Gospel restores us to! Intimate communion with God! We needlessly take upon ourselves so many burdens that we are not meant to bear.
Our Father is not a hard taskmaster. He leads us into the path of righteousness. He feeds us in green pastures. He makes us lie down by quiet waters. He restores our souls.
He protects us and gives us a feast in the presence of our enemies.Prayer of the Quiet / Heart is casting the cares of the day onto the Lord. To make this extremely practical, think of this as familiarly sharing your day with your spouse / best friend / roommate. Once that’s done, you’ll typically feel a sense of release or rest knowing you’ve got it off your chest and have been heard and known.
Lots of people stop there. But, this is just the beginning, and where prayer becomes even better.
The second part, of Prayer of the Quiet/ Heart is found in verse 7 – “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in your union with Christ Jesus.
” This is what I really want to talk about for you. This is where you’ll really feel that needed rest, and deeper connection.
Find God’s Peace and Experience His Joy
After your experiential connection is reestablished with the Lord (think of this as your emotional and personal connection; there are no walls up, everything is made known, and there is total vulnerability and trust. You’re on the same page, completely and the Lord begins to fill you with his love and peace. This is where we begin to enter into rest and experience the refreshing the comes from His manifest presence. (Acts 3:20).
Think of this cuddling with Daddy, just enjoying being together. No words necessary. Just enjoying presence. You might see faces here. Just ask God what He wants for them, and say ‘Amen.’ It’s that simple.
This is where I pray for people.
The Lord brings people to my attention that are on His heart, and I say “Yes and Amen” to what He wants for them, and sometimes communicate it to let them know they are known and loved by Him, this letter.
There are several more stages of prayer after this, but practicing the Prayer of Quiet – a still, affectionate attention to the Lord in your heart is the gateway to a life of unceasing prayer and communion (they become almost the same thing) with God, providing extraordinary fulfillment and rest – all you are meant to have and live , not for. This is God’s explicit will: “Enter my rest.”
If you start this type of prayer you’ll find you can begin to practice it everywhere, all the time, and it is most helpful in your daily life, because you are continually loving Him and receiving grace from Him for your daily tasks. Also pray, “Lord, let me become more aware of your presence” and you will begin to feel God Himself warming within your chest (where Christ is seated on your heart) and your belly will flow rivers of living water.
Perhaps a weighty presence may start to form on you. Put all your focus there on that place where the warming is. That feeling is God Himself. Just remain there for 15 to 20 minutes as friends. This really is prayer.
You don’t have to say anything, just learn to be with the Lord and enjoy Him. This stage of prayer is simultaneously about learning to let go of the ‘have to’s’ and learning to enjoy simply being with God without obligation to do anything.
He’s sure enjoying being with you.If you open this door of prayer / communion with Jesus, you must allow yourself to experience joy and happiness, especially when and where you may consider it inappropriate because there in that place, joy and hope and gladness are actually the most appropriate! It is a living display of faith and expectation and hope in God to work all things for good for us and His purposes.
Isaiah says, “He will make us joyful in his house of prayer.” You’re his house. As you turn your heart to Him in prayer you will begin to experience “joy inexpressible and full of glory.
” How this joy wells up within you is superbly natural, because it is a normal part of our nature that Jesus has restored. Not experiencing this is actually abnormal. Our conception of what we call the “world,” or reality, is upside down.
The Kingdom of God is the one right side up, and that’s the one we live in. It is not vice versa.
Turn your heart to Him, become aware of His presence within you, and you’ll simply begin to experience this truth from within: “You lead me in the path of righteousness. In your presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are overflowing pleasures evermore.”
The Power and Privilege of God’s Children
Now is the time to take a fresh look at your private prayer life and dream about a tweak or two you could make in the coming days. Typically the best way to grow and make headway is not a total overhaul, but identifying one or a couple small changes that will pay dividends over time.
Or maybe you have little-to-no real private prayer life (which might be as common among professing Christians as it’s ever been), and you really need to start from scratch. You may feel firsthand the weight of Francis Chan’s alarm, “My biggest concern for this generation is your inability to focus, especially in prayer.” Perhaps it’s true of you, and you’re ready for change.
Whether you’re in need of a little self-evaluation, or learning as a beginner, I’d to offer a few practical flashpoints on private prayer. But let’s start with why private prayer, or “closet prayer,” is so important in the first place.
Praying “in the Closet”
“Closet prayer” gets its name from Jesus’s famous “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5–7. The context is Jesus’s instructions for not “practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1).
“When you pray, you must not be the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5–6)
“The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life.”
Just as praying in earshot of others had its immanent rewards in first-century Judaism, so also it does in our twenty-first-century church communities, whether it’s in church or small group or just at the table with friends and family. It can be easy to slide into impressing others as the driving motivation for our praying with others, whether its our length, tone, topic, or jargon, all carefully chosen to produce certain effects in our human hearers alone.
It’s a tough line to walk, because we must pray publicly — in church and in our homes and elsewhere — and public prayer should take into account that others are listening; it should have others in mind. But the danger lurks of sidelining God and shifting our focus to making ourselves look impressive.
Test of Authenticity
But “closet prayer” offers a test of authenticity for our public praying. As Tim Keller comments on Matthew 6:5–6,
The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life. Many people will pray when they are required by cultural or social expectations, or perhaps by the anxiety caused by troubling circumstances.
Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so.
They pursue it even during times of spiritual dryness, when there is no social or experiential payoff. (Prayer, 23)
Private prayer is an important test of whether we are real.
Remedy for Inadequacy
But private prayer is not just a test of our trueness, but also an ongoing remedy for our inadequacies and the lack of desire we often feel for God. Prayer, says John Piper, is “not only the measure of our hearts, revealing what we really desire, it is also the indispensible remedy for our hearts when we do not desire God the way we ought” (When I Don’t Desire God, 153).
Private prayer shows who we really are spiritually and is essential in healing the many places we find ourselves broken, needy, lacking, and rebellious.
Context for Relationship
Also, as Keller notes, prayer is essential for “a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father.” This is the heart of prayer — not getting things from God, but getting God.
Prayer is where we speak back to God, in response to his word to us, and experience what it means to enjoy him as an end in himself, not just a means to our petitions. In prayer, we enjoy the gift of having God’s ear and discover for ourselves that we are not just servants, but friends (John 15:15).
We are not just hearers of his word, but his own children who have his heart (Romans 8:15–16; Galatians 4:6–7). He wants to hear from us. Such is the power and privilege of prayer.Here’s where we see why Jesus practiced so well what he preached about prayer and finding a “closet.” He had no inadequacies to make up for, and no doubts about his trueness, but he desperately desired fellowship with his Father. And so, again and again, he prayed alone.
“After he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. . . . [H]e was there alone” (Matthew 14:23; also Mark 6:46). Not just once, but as a regular habit, “he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16).
“Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
“The heart of prayer is not getting things from God, but getting God.”
Before selecting his twelve disciples, “he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). Even in Gethsemane, three times he “went away and prayed” (Matthew 26:36, 42, 44; also Mark 14:32–42). From the beginning of his ministry to the eve of Good Friday, he made the practice of private prayer an essential part of his relationship with the Father.
And so, it is difficult to overstate the place of private prayer. It is, in many ways, the measure of who we are spiritually. How we pray, says J.I. Packer, “is as important a question as we can ever face.”
Five Suggestions for Secret Prayer
That private prayer is important, even essential, for the Christian is clear. But how we go about private prayer is gloriously open for our various experiences and routines and patterns, in the differing seasons of our lives. As you evaluate (or begin) your own rhythms and practices, here are five suggestions for enriching private prayer.
1. Create your closet
Find your regular place for private prayer, and if you can’t locate a ready-made spot, make one. It may simply be a clear desk, or some place you can kneel.
Many have found that beside the bed proves more fruitful than laying in bed. Maybe you can find an actual closet, or nook under the stairs, with enough space to sit or kneel, and enough light to read and even write.
It will help you be regular in private prayer to have your go-to spot.
2. Begin with Bible
Because prayer is a conversation we didn’t start, but a response to God’s initiation and speaking to us in his word, many of us have learned, with George Mueller, to start with the Scriptures.
Mueller says that for ten years, he began each day with an immediate attempt at fervent and extended prayer, only to eventually learn how much richer and focused his prayers were when they came in response to God’s word.
From then on, Mueller began with a brief prayer for God’s help as he read, then he went first to the Bible, and would open his ear to God in his word, by meditating on the Scriptures, then transition, through the discipline of meditation, into his season of daily private prayer.
3. Adore, confess, thank, ask
After reading and meditating on the Bible, and before opening the gates to “free prayer” — voicing whatever is on our hearts — it can help to have some form ready at hand. William Law counseled that morning devotions “have something fixed and something at liberty.” So also with private prayer.
Martin Luther recommended praying through the form of the Lord’s Prayer with fresh wording each day. One time-tested form is ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication.
First, adore God with praise for the truth revealed in your reading of and meditation on the Scriptures, then confess your own sins and failings and foibles, then give thanks for his grace and mercy, and finally supplicate — petition him, ask him — for requests for yourself, your family, your church, and more.
4. Divulge your desires — and develop them
“Few things are as worthy of our attention and investment as the privilege and power of private prayer.”
First, something fixed; now, something at liberty.
This is “free prayer,” where we pray our hearts, and what burdens and anxieties are on us that day and in that season of life. In private prayer, we are our most honest with God and with ourselves. Express your heart to your Father.
He knows it already, and he wants to hear it from you. This is an unspeakable privilege.
But prayer to God is not only the place for divulging our heart, but also developing our desires. There is power. Prayer changes our hearts nothing else.
Perhaps especially when we follow the prayers of the Bible, in the psalms and from the apostle (as in Ephesians 1:17–21; 3:16–19; Philippians 1:9–11; Colossians 1:9–12) and more, as guides for the shaping and expressing of our desires toward God.
5. Keep it fresh
Change it up for a new year, or a new month, or in a new season of life. Regularly, or just on occasion, write out prayers with focus and care (a valuable facet of the discipline of journaling), or sharpen your affections in prayer with fasting, or take a break from the chaos of life with some special retreat for silence and solitude.
Few things are as worthy of our attention and investment as the privilege and power of private prayer.