Jonathan Edwards: Secret Prayer

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Will they find delight in the Almighty? Will they call on God at all times? Job 27:10

“It is the manner of hypocrites, after a while, in a great measure to leave off the practice of this duty. We are often taught, that the seeming goodness and piety of hypocrites is not of a lasting and persevering nature. It is so with respect to their practice of the duty of prayer in particular, and especially of secret prayer. They can omit this duty, and their omission of it not be taken notice of by others, who know what profession they have made. So that a regard to their own reputation doth not oblige them still to practice it. If others saw how they neglect it, it would exceedingly shock their charity towards them. But their neglect doth not fall under their observation; at least not under the observation of many. Therefore they may omit this duty, and still have the credit of being converted persons…

They come to this pass by degrees. At first they begin to be careless about it, under some particular temptations. Because they have been out in young company, or have been taken up very much with worldly business, they omit it once: After that they more easily omit it again. Thus it presently becomes a frequent thing with them to omit it and after a while, it comes to that pass, that they seldom attend it. Perhaps they attend it on Sabbath days, and sometimes on other days. But they have ceased to make it a constant practice daily to retire to worship God alone, and to seek his face in secret places. They sometimes do a little to quiet conscience, and just to keep alive their old hope; because it would be shocking to them, even after all their subtle dealing with their consciences to call themselves converts, and yet totally to live without prayer. Yet the practice of secret prayer they have in a great measure left off.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer” II.

The Lenten discipline of prayer helps us regain what Edwards says “by degrees” we lose in the course of life. As converted persons the rigors of worldly business and the life cause us to pray only on Sundays and over time we actually become the hypocrites in the biblical text that we scorn.

Think of secret prayer as visiting a garden of flowers like those pictured above here in Guatemala. Their beauty captivates. It reminds us of God’s tender care. Remember the flowers don’t toil or spin, because the Father cares for them. He cares for us too.

Secret prayer is simply time alone with God in prayer. Block time for it daily during Lent. Do this not to gain favor with God but to re-learn how to live with and for God as His children. In the full sermon, Edwards shakes and wakes us to realize that without secret prayer we lose our hope.

Where is hope today? As we think about being kind and generous followers of Christ, hope is one of the greatest gifts we can dispense with abundance, but Edwards notes that it’s only found in people of secret prayer. Want to dispense it? Become a person of secret prayer. Form a habit during Lent to last you a lifetime.

And when you pray, remember me, speaking at the CONFIABLE Founders Event and having strategic meetings for Global Trust Partners in Guatemala City today. Thank you.