From the book: Sermon on the Mount. Vol. 4

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Sermon on the Mount, #36
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CLOSET PRAYER

SERMON #100

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. MAT 6:5-6

Our text is not only a direction in acceptable prayer, but it also contains certain commands such as "thou shalt not," and "enter into thy closet." Our text also teaches the right motives toward God in true worship.

Our Saviour's teaching about alms-giving in the previous verses and Chapter 5 points to our self-sacrifice toward our fellow man motivated by love under the second table of the law of love, i.e., to love our neighbour as ourselves. The Lord Jesus is also dealing with the motive of the heart towards the first table of the law of love, i.e., to love God above all. Our text focuses on prayer, the spiritual heartbeat of a man. Notice that He is looking at the spirit of prayer, as well as the spirit of the law. The Lord Jesus is teaching us the spirit of Godliness in prayer; prayer isn't what meets the eye; it isn't what seems to appeal to man.

What is an acceptable attitude in prayer? In the verses before us, Jesus teaches the right attitude in prayer. As MAT 5:17-48 deals with the spirit of the law, so our text deals with the heart, i.e., our attitude toward God under the first table of the law.

The Pharisees showed a wrong attitude of self-exaltation which was also revealed in their prayer life. This same pharisaical spirit is alive and well today; it is the source of a continual spiritual warfare within each person.

Let's consider three places in Scripture where the root of this constant spiritual warfare originated. The first place is found in GEN 3:16 where the Lord pronounced the curse of the broken law upon the woman. "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." In this verse we find the root of the spiritual warfare if we understand what the Lord is telling us.

The curse upon the woman, which is a type of the church, reflects the spiritual warfare that comes within the heart of the church: "...and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Now if we don't understand this properly, it would almost sound like a blessing. It would be one of the greatest blessings if we could say that every woman's true desire was for the leadership of her husband. If we understood it in that light, it would not be a curse. To understand what this verse really means, we must go back into the original language to find the derivation of the word desire.

This word desire is taken from the Hebrew word teshuwqah which means "a sense of stretching out after; a longing desire for." Desire for what? Now we must go back into the root word from which it was taken, which is shuwq. This means "to run after or over, i.e., to overflow as water." There is the root of the spiritual warfare. There is the curse that was placed on the woman in the Garden of Eden; that curse was a burning desire to overflow and to run over her husband.

Then the Lord added, "...and he shall rule over thee." There we see the spiritual warfare. There is that burning desire for her to overrun and overflow her husband on the one hand, and on the other hand he was commanded to rule over her. In other words, there is going to be a continuous warfare and a power play. Why did the Lord lay that curse upon the woman? The temptation that Satan laid on her was that she should be as God, a power play between man and God. That power play was that "...and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil," GEN 3:5. In other words, you decide what is right and wrong. This curse of constant contention is what God has laid upon the human race as the curse of the broken law. This constant spiritual warfare for first place will never cease until God works grace in the soul.

This word teshuwqah is interpreted as desire only three places in the Scriptures. Let me show you where they are so you can see how this follows through as a desire to run over, to overflow.

The second place is where Cain came to present his fruit as an offering unto the Lord; the Lord was not pleased with it, but the Lord accepted the offering of Abel. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him," GEN 4:7. The Lord told Cain there will be a spiritual warfare between the old man of sin and that new man of the heart which is typified by Cain and Abel. The new man of the heart will desire to overflow the old man of sin, to conquer him, yet in this life, we will never fully conquer him.

The old man of sin will cause the spiritual warfare of the spirit lusting against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit. This power play is the curse that God put on the human race for sin. Wouldn't it be a blessing if you and I could have the old man of sin totally slain? Then we could come into perfection; we could come to a point where we could serve Christ without interruption. There could be no greater blessing, but that is not the way it will be in this life. In this life there is going to be a continual struggle through this spiritual warfare.

The third place where we find the same word from the original translated as desire is in Song of Solomon. Again, it denotes spiritual warfare and the spiritual struggles of the soul. SON 7:10 says, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me." This is telling us how the church of Christ is looking toward the Lord Jesus as their beloved and that the desire of the new man of the heart is to overflow the old man of sin, to bring us into subjection with the law of love. Here we see the spiritual warfare, how the old man of sin will be struggling to overcome the new man of the heart. Here we see that new man, the Lord Jesus Christ formed in you, has the desire to overflow that old man of sin, that Christ might rule over us. "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me."

Spiritual warfare becomes so manifest when we see that old man struggling against the power of the Spirit and the Spirit struggling against the old man. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would," GAL 5:17.

This spiritual warfare enters into our prayer chamber. Where is it? It is in that longing desire of the old man of sin after self-exaltation. The curse that God laid upon you and me in Paradise is what we see in our inner prayer chambers; this struggle against hypocrisy must not be seen as two classes of people. Struggling against hypocrisy is something that you and I have to understand, because the struggle against hypocrisy comes into the life of every one of God's children. It isn't that the scribes and Pharisees are over here and the Christians are over there. That is not what this is teaching. It is teaching about the Pharisee that is in our own heart; that spiritual struggle that comes within our soul, but "...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2CO 3:17), from that curse of the broken law. When we receive the Spirit of Christ, i.e., the spirit of submission, there is liberty from the curse of confusion under the broken law. In this light, let's proceed into our text.

Our text says, "And when thou prayest [This is personal], thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet [don't come before the Lord with something that will be for your honor], and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." The Lord teaches we must have a spirit of humility and contrition with our hearts bowing low before the Lord.

In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is teaching the right spirit of prayer. What is the right spirit of prayer? JOH 4:23-24 says, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

Jesus used six contrasts in Matthew 5 between the spirit of the law and the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees to illustrate the spirit of the law. You have to understand that the law has not been abolished; the spirit of the law must be incorporated into our understanding. The Lord isn't looking for a legalistic obedience to the letter of the law; He wants to see us living by the spirit of the law. Watch what happens.

Our text contrasts the power of true prayer with the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees to teach the right spirit of prayer. The Lord is going to teach us the true spirit of prayer by giving us two opposites. He sets before us the spirit of hypocrisy to contrast the spirit of humility, as He did with the six contrasts in Chapter 5. Jesus sets forth these contrasts that are as opposite as black and white. We can now start sorting out wherein that curse of hypocrisy and self-exaltation that we inherited in the Garden of Eden has followed us into our prayer chambers.

Jesus says, "And when thou prayest..." meaning when YOU pray; it is a personal matter. Do not take that spirit of hypocrisy into our prayer chamber. Sort it out; it is not a matter of being judgmental against another man; we must learn to see into our own hearts. Prayer is like a wrestling match; Satan grapples with us personally, one on one. This struggle is a personal matter. We are not to be as the hypocrites who love to pray in the synagogues or on the street corner so men can see them. Now follow this, the motive is to be seen of men. "Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."

Our text begins, "And when thou prayest..." The lesson is the same as the admonition about alms-giving. MAT 6:1 says, "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.." It is not a question whether or not a person does alms, it is a question of how and why he does them. As with the alms- giving, it is not a question IF we pray, but it is a question of what spirit motivates that prayer.

Jesus showed us in LUK 18:11-13 the contrast between the prayer of the Pharisee and the publican. See the posture of the heart in those prayers to understand Jesus' emphasis was on the motive. "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself [See the posture of his heart!], God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. [Now see the posture of the publican's heart; see the true spirit of prayer.] And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."

Jesus used the prayers of the Pharisee and the publican to show us what our motive should be. The posture of that prayer--not the posture of the body--the posture of the heart is the important element. What was the posture of the Pharisee's heart as he stood and prayed with himself? His heart was raised up with pride. "...I thank thee , that I am not as other men..."

Now contrast the posture of the Pharisee's heart with that of the publican when he prayed. See the startling differences in spirit and motive; see the spirit of true prayer. The Lord Jesus gives such precious contrasts so you and I can sort out our motives and the posture of our hearts; then we can see the posture of our heart as He sees it. The publican, not the Pharisee, went to his house justified because the posture of his heart was brokenness of spirit; his prayer was in submission to God.

Jesus did not teach that it is wrong to stand and pray publicly, in church, in society, or in public places. The spirit of the prayer is what God observes, not the literal location or the posture of the body. The Lord is bringing forth the spirit of the prayer and the motive. Is the motive self-exaltation or does the motive reflect the heart of the publican? It can be the heart of the publican praying before a group. The Lord is not saying it is wrong to stand before a group of people to pray. He is looking at the posture of the heart which must reflect reverence, humility, and submission.

Our text warns against the leaven of the scribes and the Pharisees which puffs up self. We are called upon to examine our hearts for self-exaltation that has leavened the whole of the religion of the scribes and Pharisees. Where did this leaven come from? It is the curse and power play that came upon the human race in the Garden of Eden. It is old Satan in there wrestling and grappling with us to exalt ourselves so our prayers will become an abomination before the Lord rather than ones seasoned with humility.

The Lord Jesus tells us to take heed of a pretense of religiously serving God with a hypocritical motive of self-exaltation. Those who are strangers to this struggle against the ugly monster, "I," have a problem. They are still spiritually blind because they cannot see the leprosy of sin in their own heart. This spiritual struggle is going on in the heart of every one of God's people because old Satan is there grappling to pollute our most earnest prayers. We must struggle against, pray about, and act against that spirit of self-exaltation.

Pharisees and hypocrites did not only live in the time of Jesus. If we have ever learned to know our own hearts, we will realize that the same spirit of the Pharisee and hypocrite is as alive and well in the hearts of men today as it was in the time of Jesus. Whether or not that spirit is alive and well is not the important question. The question is: are we at war with Satan in our hearts? Is there a struggle in our hearts against that spirit of hypocrisy?

This wrong spirit can be seen often in reading religious biographies. The story presents the person to be so perfect, his motives are so pure, but it doesn't bring forth his failures. The book does not bring forth the whole story of the man. There are precious biographies of some of the saints that are pagan in nature. They bring forth what tremendous men they were, perfect and holy in their motives. While perfection must be the heart's desire of every child of God, what actually takes place in our life is quite different. We have to take note of that spiritual struggle and the curse that every man must struggle against.

The Bible has many biographies, but those biographies are inspired by an all-knowing God. Look at the difference when you read these biographies. You not only read of Noah's faith, but you also read of his failure. Noah is not exalted; a gracious, loving God is exalted. We see in Noah how he fell, but we also see the grace of God, and how God brought him back. That makes a true biography.

Let's look at another one. The biography of David tells not only about his love, but also of his deep failures. David was a man after God's own heart. The Lord himself said to Solomon that his heart was not perfect with the Lord as was his father, David's. The Lord made that statement about David; as a true biography, it also records David's faults. You and I must understand this principle. The biography did not exalt David; it told of his fall to show that he was still a man.

What about Moses? Moses was the meekest of all men. Moses was so meek, he was able to talk to God face to face. However, his sin at the waters of Meribah is also recorded. Why? It is so we do not worship a man, so we can see that he is still a man. Our eye must be fixed on the gracious God who by His grace drew Moses so nigh. Grace, not Moses, brought about God's plan.

When Moses was left to himself but for a moment, he fell under the power of self and did not sanctify the Lord, but he exalted himself. How? He said in NUM 20:10, "...Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" You see that curse of the broken law affected Moses as well as you and me. Moses said, "must WE.." Do you see that curse of Eden and how even in Moses, that sin of self-exaltation began to rise up?

The Lord did not allow Moses to enter the promised land because he did not sanctify the Lord at the waters of Meribah. Moses took the glory for getting water out of that rock. We must be aware of the treachery of that fountain of sin that dwells within us.

The biography of Peter not only speaks of his zeal, but also of his failures in his battle against self, his reputation, and self-pride. The biography of Solomon not only tells of his love and wisdom, but it also tells of his foolishness. If there is going to be a biography that will tell a true story, it must not only tell of his virtues, but it must show his failings, too.

Satan and our own evil heart grapple with us in this world. The battle is real; it is genuine. Life has setbacks as well as victories. If a person is going to sit down and say, "Come, gather around while I tell what the Lord has done for my soul," then he is also going to have to tell you how he fell, his failings. In his failings, he must show how the graciousness of the Lord delivered him from his foolishness and sin. That is the true story of what God has done for his soul; He has delivered it from the power of sin.

I heard of a man who was said to have come into such a deep spiritual struggle that he laid on the floor; it was told how it took three men to pick him up and place him on the couch. Do you know what happened? Satan became the victor; that man was so admired for such humility in the struggle he went through. In reality, he had his reward! Our text says, "Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

If that man had been in private, it wouldn't have taken three men to pick him up; the Lord would have done it if his prayer was genuine. Think about that. Satan is so crafty. We can be going through one of the greatest struggles of our life, to the point of being at our wit's end; yet if we are putting on a scene, it is before men. This is the lesson the Lord Jesus is teaching. He says, "in your closet," in private, not before men; that is the lesson. It is a very dangerous thing to speak of those who are such dear children of God as though they are perfect, but it is more dangerous when they give their consent to being portrayed as being perfect.

David said in PSA 34:3-4, "O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." It is not wrong to come before a crowd and tell what the Lord has done for our soul, but what are we going to tell? If we tell the truth, our biography must include our failings. We will have to confess we have been tempted with sin, and how the Lord has delivered us from such foolishness.

Some of the most blessed times we can have with friends are when we can show how the Lord has put His hedge around us and spared us from the power of sin. Last week I was visiting with my daughter, and I had to say how the Lord had put a hedge there, and there, and there. How often in my foolishness I would have fallen miserably if the Lord had not put His hedge around me. As we tell what the Lord has done for our soul, we must tell of how "...the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would," GAL 5:17. When we can tell from experience how by God's grace, we found we "...cannot do the things that [we] ye would" because God spared us by His grace from doing those things against His will. That is telling what the Lord has done for our soul. Think. That is not exalting ourselves; that is exalting the Lord.

True worship must come to the point where the Lord is exalted, not man. I believe there is true fellowship of the saints when we can truly lay before our fellow man the pitfalls that we would have fallen into if the Lord had not put up His hedge to spare us from our foolishness. Now we are able to come before the Lord in the right spirit and true worship.

We may relate our experiences. I believe God calls upon us to do that, to testify to the honor and the glory of the Lord, but we have to be very careful of our motive. I can speak of this from my own heart. I think back how often I have told of the things the Lord has done for me, then I have to lay my hand over my mouth and say, "Guilty, guilty, guilty." When I think back how that curse of the broken law strives to exalt self, then I have to examine my heart over and over again. Was it really to glorify God?

What I told was true, but the Lord looks in the heart. What a craving there is in the human heart to have a little glory for ourselves. It is important in Godly worship to confess what a sinner we are when we tell of our experiences. What is so unusual and so wonderful is that God shows such grace to me, such an undeserving one. If we can come together and tell what the Lord has done in that spirit, I believe it is for the Lord's glory. We are not proclaiming what a big man we are; we are telling the wonder of God's grace in delivering such a monster of sin from the power of Satan and sin.

The Lord is glorified when we can tell how the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh and how these things are contrary the one to the other so by God's restraining grace we cannot do the things that we would, c.f., GAL 5:17. Oh, beloved, how often we would have destroyed ourselves, but the Lord has come with His hedge about us to protect us with His restraining grace.

John Newton wrote three letters on the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear to describe growing in grace. When he described that last field, which was the richest field, a man wrote him, and said, "I thank you so much for writing that last letter because it describes exactly where I am." Newton's short response was, "There's one thing that I forgot to add to it: those who are in that richest field never think it of themselves." Signed, John Newton. It's interesting, isn't it? That was a very wise answer to that man's letter.

The Lord Jesus, who knows the heart, said in our text about seeking the praise of men: "Verily I say unto you, They have their reward," the actor's reward. It is the reward of praise from men for putting on an act. Such a reward is the shallow, flighty applause of men. It has no spiritual or eternal value. The value ends when the praise of men ends.

Jesus describes the spiritual leprosy of the heart in MAR 12:38- 40, "And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts [but watch where their heart is]: Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation." They have already received their reward from men, but they will also receive their reward from the Lord--they will receive "greater damnation."

In His teaching in Matthew 6 Jesus uses three contrasts to illustrate true spiritual worship. In V:6 we read, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." This teaching must not be used in a legalistic way. You see, there is the next overreaction that Satan wants us to make. Our text teaches personal and private prayer. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet," is not condemning public prayer.

Jesus referred to personal prayer in MAT 6:6, using thou, thee and thy eight times. We must sort that out so we don't take this verse in a general and legalistic way, taking it out of context.

Read it again to see how personal this message is. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Eight times we see a personal pronoun, so we cannot apply this verse to public prayer.

The hypocrite is described in V:5, "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets [They are not reproved for praying publicly, but such a hypocrite is seeking to perform his private devotions in as public a manner as possible.], that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."

Now do you see the problem? The Lord Jesus is not saying that we may not pray publicly, but He is saying that the Pharisee was bringing his private devotions, those things that were his personal matters, before the public to make himself look better. "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." This Pharisee was praying with himself saying, "...God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men..." and then I, I, I, I. He was bringing forth his private matters in public prayer.

The Lord is not coming against public prayer, but we also need private prayer. We must come in private prayer with our private matters. We can still ask for prayer for private problems, and we can pray publicly for private problems. We must see that there is a distinction between private devotions, private prayer, and public prayer. The Pharisee's motive was not to worship God, but to win honor, glory, and worship of himself. His motive was to let the whole crowd know what a wonderful man he was because of the confession he could make about himself before the Lord in public.

When we pray our personal prayers, Jesus says, "But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet." We get a much richer understanding when we go into the original. The Greek word for closet is the same word which is translated in MAT 24:26 as "secret chamber." It means a private place. Now that doesn't mean that you have to build a certain little cage with a door on it so you can go in and close the door to have prayer. Any place where your heart is, in private, is acceptable; you can be sitting in a multitude of people, silently meditating with the Lord and be complying with that verse. It isn't a matter of where your body is; it is not the physical posture. The Lord is speaking about the posture of the heart.

Our text says, "And when thou hast shut thy door..." The Lord gives us a double caution to take heed in that sentence. It says not only seek a private room, but in the private room, shut the door. That is a double warning. In other words, that door must be shut to the extent that there is not a public show. This double warning is to emphasize the strength of the temptation which comes to the human heart. We do not realize until we have become an old soldier of the cross what struggles we have with Satan against that element of self-exaltation. We will never understand it until we have been there. Those temptations are so strong that the Lord places a double warning on them.

This emphasizes again, and again, do not do your religious exercises, your personal religious exercises, so you are seen by others as a religious person. We have to be careful that our motive is not to show others what a holy and religious person we are. That is a trap that Satan loves to set for us. I will give you an example of how he can set that trap. People can come to you and express their mind and tell you that they have a high respect for you. They say they really respect your walk of life. That is a tremendous trap that Satan puts out. That's all for the Lord's glory, isn't it? However, now feel that yeast start to build inside of you. Have you ever been there? I have. You can pray and struggle against it, but you see that curse that came upon us in Eden coming alive. That fuming of that old leaven of the Pharisee's pride right away wants to start building. Then what happens? Who is being honored?

Now Jesus says for us to enter the closet and close the door to the closet! Take double caution. Let this private place be your holy of holies, where you commune, face to face with the Lord. It must not be a showcase, but it must be a matter in the inner chambers of the heart where you come and present your case face to face with the Lord. Let nothing be there but yourself and God. Now the holy of holies can be anywhere that we are alone with God.

The woman of Samaria said in JOH 4:20, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." She thought that it had to be either on this mountain or in Jerusalem or some geographical spot. But Jesus answered in JOH 4:21-24, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. [You see, it is not in this geographical spot or that one] Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." In other words, we don't worship Him in Jerusalem; we don't worship Him in that given mountain, or in that given closet, or that given spot. Satan would love to put you in that kind of bondage, to have to come to a certain geographical spot to worship. Jesus says no, the location is not the point; we worship in Spirit. Worship is a heart matter; it is a matter where the heart goes out to the Lord.

I have to tell you about an experience that I once had when I was young. I was going down the field on a tractor and my heart was going out to the Lord. I was having such blessed communion with the Lord when all of a sudden old Satan hit me dead center with an arrow: "Oh, you're praying? You belong on your knees." Do you know what I did? I stopped the tractor; I got down on my knees and all that was left in the field was the stubble I was plowing. The Lord had gone so far I couldn't find Him; I was alone in a field of stubble. Satan played that dirty trick on me a number of times in my life.

Another time in later years, I was sitting in my living room. My heart was going out to the Lord, and I had such a blessed time. Then old Satan came in with that arrow again. I just stayed sitting and said, "Lord, put old Satan to flight." Then I saw a little pamphlet lying on the table. I reached for it, opened it, and started to read. It was on that very subject. The author pointed out that the posture of the body is not important to the Lord. It pointed out that David went and sat before the Lord, and Isaac was walking in the field meditating. It went on to explain about King Solomon who knelt before the Lord with outstretched hands. It explained that in each case, it was true meditation. Satan wants us to believe that we have to be in a certain posture or spot, anything to distract us. Beware of that trap.

Jesus says that worship is not in this mountain or Jerusalem; it is in the Spirit. That is precious. I can be sitting in a multitude of people, and I am just as alone as a sparrow on a house top because my heart is going out to the Lord. The Lord and I are having communion. Geographically, I am not alone, I am sitting among a multitude, but my heart is still private with the Lord.

"Pray to thy Father which is in secret." That is the key; the Lord wants private, secret prayer. If you desire to pray to God, He is there in secret. That is where we find the Lord. If our desire is to pray to God, then what more fitting place where there is not the distraction of others. It is a blessed thing to be by ourselves, to be in isolation when our heart is meditating with the Lord, but it is not mandatory, geographically. Our heart has to be in meditation, privately.

Secrecy as described by the Lord Jesus Christ here is sincerity. If we sincerely wish to commune with God and not impress others, what would be a more fitting place than a private one? Why do we close our eyes when we pray? We close our eyes so Satan cannot distract our hearts with anything we see. We are isolated with the Lord. If we are really in prayer, meditating before the Lord, we don't want any distraction.

We must deal with another issue. Death is separation. To the true worshiper the heart's desire is to realize God's presence. Eternal death is to be eternally separated from God. Death of the body is the separation of the body and soul. Spiritual death took place in the Garden of Eden by separating us from the image of God. We seek God's presence when we pray because often we have so much spiritual death within our hearts. We have to struggle against this spiritual death and pray for His presence.

Moses had no desire to enter the promised land without the Lord's presence. He was not seeking heaven nor was he running from hell. Moses wanted the presence of the Lord and said he'd rather not go into the promised land than to go there without the Lord's presence. True prayer is not primarily seeking heaven; it is seeking the Lord's presence and His will. Look at what we read in EXO 33:14-15, "And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence."

Moses prayed thus because he could not be content with the presence of an angel. We would think it was quite something, wouldn't we, if we actually, physically had an angel in our presence. Moses could not be content with the presence of an angel. The Lord had said in EXO 32:34, "Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee..." Moses said no to this, that still was not good enough. Moses didn't want to go into the promised land if the Lord's presence didn't go with him. This is true spiritual worship; we can't settle for anything less than the presence of God. We are not looking for self- exaltation; we are looking to exalt the Lord and to be in His presence.

The primary issue in salvation is not to get away from hell or to go to heaven. Salvation is to be brought back into the presence of and communion with God, and that we can come into the presence of One whom we love. Separation from God would make the promised land a hell for those who love the Lord. That is what Moses was saying; he didn't even want the promised land if the presence of God was not there; it would be a hell because it would be a separation from God.

True worshipers are not heaven seekers, neither is hell their prime concern. It grieves me when I hear so many preachers of a fire and brimstone gospel, preaching a hell and damnation to scare people into a legal religion. This kind of preaching only causes a fleeing of the consequences of sin without repentance or Godly fear. That is not the gospel. Moses didn't have his primary concern over hell, neither was heaven the main attraction to him. The one thing he wanted and needed was the presence of the Lord. He wanted to be in God's presence. He wanted to be with the Lord.

The true spirit of prayer is found in JOB 23:8-12, "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." That is the true spirit of prayer. He was looking for the presence of God; that is the true struggling of a living soul in his search for God. Coming face to face with God is coming to the point where we can see God by seeing His hand in the present trial.

As when I was speaking with my daughter, I could see His hedge had preserved me many times; He had upheld me here, and there. If He had left me to my foolishness, I would have fallen miserably in so many ways. When the Lord comes, as He did with Moses, He will cause all of His goodness to pass before us. "And he [Moses] said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory," EXO 33:18. What did the Lord say? V:19 says, "...I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy." In seeing all the ways the Lord had been good to him, Moses saw God's glory.

Our prayer life is our spiritual thermometer with which we can receive an indication of our spiritual health, fervency, and warmth. The true spirit of prayer is when we are the lowest, on our knees. When God is exalted to the highest, and man is abased to the lowest, there is a two-way communication line, speaking with God face to face.

Job said in, JOB 42:5-6, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." The spirit of humility comes into our hearts when we have seen the Lord. When we come into His presence, the first thing we learn to seek is repentance. Job saw the sinfulness of sin, and he saw the blessedness of what the Lord had done to preserve him.

We see the same thing with the prophet, Isaiah, when he was face to face with the Lord. ISA 6:5 says, "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." When Isaiah's eyes were lifted to see the Lord, he saw all of the corruption, the fountain of corruption, in his own heart. That is precious.

Our text, MAT 6:5-6, teaches the contrast between the true spirit of prayer and religious pride. "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are [Be on guard against the hypocrite that lies within your own heart. Let me warn you, he is not only alive, but he's very well and active whether we realize it or not.]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. [The reward of being honored by men puffs up and is the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees that tends to drive the Lord away. If it is the Lord's presence that we are seeking, we have to be on guard.] But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

If we can come in a private way before the Lord with a true spirit of confession, if we can come like Isaiah and Job, admitting that in our corrupt nature, we are of unclean lips, then we shall see the King in His beauty. We shall see the King, the Lord of Hosts by the eyes of faith. Amen.


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