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sometimes Moses speaks to God in secret prayer : see both together in Exod. xxxii. 9—11.
A strange scripture—God and Moses had been conversing with each other in the mount forty days: God tells Moses, the people had made them a molten calf, and he was angry and would consume them, and bids Moses let him alone, as though Moses had bound the hands of omnipotence: nay then, thinks Moses, if my poor people be in this hazard since I am with God, I will ply the throne of grace, and improve my interest for them : and then he falls close to the work, he besought the Lord his God, and supplicated mercy for the people. At this time he alone stood in the gap, and prevailed by his intercession to turn away God's wrath from Israel :* here was a deliverance, and this was the fruit of secret prayer.
5. David, the man after God's own heart, was a man much skilled in secret or closet meditations and prayer : hence some of his Psalms of prayer and praise were first composed in caves, wildernesses, and solitary places, Psalm cxlii. the title is, “Maschil of David, a prayer when he was in the cave,” and this is for instruction to us, so Maschil signifies : yea, he purposely compiles the cii. Psalm, as a pattern to all that may be in his case, that is, solitary, “ As a pelican in the wilderness, an owl in the desert, or a sparrow alone upon the house-top,” ver. 6,7. Then they are to pray as he did, and to pour out their complaint before the Lord : yea, upon a declaration of God's covenant, or designs of mercy to David and his house, the good man went either into some private room in his own house, or into the tent before the ark, and there set himself, first to meditate, then to pray; for he did both, as that scripture clearly intimates, 2 Sam. vii. 17–27. And () what memorable fruits of secret prayer had David frequently ? Surely he felt the sweetness of it, both in his soul and body, in his spiritual estate, and political affairs; therefore he commends it to all, Psalm
* Psalm cvi. 23.
; iv. 4, 5, “ Commune with your own heart upon your bed,” (or in your bed-chamber) and there also "offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”
6. Another example from Scripture of the performance of this duty of secret prayer, is, the celebrated man of God ELIJAH, who wrought many miracles, and was mighty in prayer, for so the apostle James testifies of him, chap. v. 17, 18, that he could shut and open heaven; he had, as it were, got the key of the clouds, to open the windows of heaven, that it might rain or not rain, according to his word. But how came he by this power? Why, certainly he had much intercourse with his God in secret. Take one instance what his practice was, 1 Kings xvii. 19-24. It is the memorable history of raising the widow woman's dead son. It was a great undertaking: none but God could raise the dead; God is to be implored by earnest prayer, no place so fit for that great duty as a closet, or some close chamber; therefore he being to deal with his God in extreme good earnest about this important business, saith the text, “He carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed, and then he cried to the Lord,” ver. 19, 20. It was not the first time Elijah had there wrestled with God; if it was his lodging room, it was his praying room, and here God heard him, and wrought the miracle : what he did for Elijah, he can and will do for us, if he see fit; for Elijah was no more than a man, and subject to like passions as we are.
7. JEREMIAH is a remarkable instance: he was a Prophet of the Lord, sanctified from his mother's womb, yet he met with so many discouragements, that he hath a mind to leave his people, and he wisheth for a lodging-place in the wilderness,* that is, some solitary retirement, that there he might take his fill of weeping; however he resolved at present, that wherever he is, he will retire, and, saith he, “My soul shall weep in secret places for your pride.”—Jer. xiii. 17. Yet more appropriately to the business of secret prayer, see Jer. xv. 17, where he saith, “I sat alone because of thy hand.” But what did he alone? Did he only pore and muse upon the church's sins and sufferings ? No, he had something to say to his God, v. 18. “Why is my pain perpetual?” And God then hath something to say to him by way of gracious answer, v. 19, “If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me:" this is the result of his secret prayer, a restoration of him to, and his confirmation in, his office and function, and to the public exercise thereof: this is worth praying for.
8. DANIEL is a famous pattern of the resolute and courageous performance of this duty, against all opposition: although he might have pleaded, (if ever any) there is a lion in the way, I shall be slain in the streets or den, for exercise of prayer in my chamber; yet he feared nothing, he ventured upon a severe law, his prince's displeasure, the loss of his preferment, the
rage of his competitors, and the lions' hungry stomachs, rather than he would omit or intermit his accustomed course of chamber-worship; he will endure the lions' cruelty, rather than neglect a known duty: nay, he is so far from gratifying his proud adversaries, that he will not in the least abate his wonted frequency, or visibility in the duty; “ but his windows being open
* Jeremiah, ix. 1, 2.
toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed,” Daniel, vi. 10. But did Daniel hold out a flag, or blow a trumpet, by setting open his windows to declare to men what he was going to do? Was not this contrary to the rule in the text? Are we here commanded to shut our door, and may Daniel open his window? Is not that all one? Surely that good man did not open his windows out of hypocrisy and vain-glory; but to shew his resolution, courage and constancy, out-daring these impious, presumptuous commands of men : he did not fear to be seen now in so plain a case. What spirit are they of, that will rather give themselves to the roaring lion, and incur the wrath of the King of heaven, which exceeds in terror a thousand hungry lions, than solemnly perform this useful duty of secret prayer : let the careless consider this.
9. PETER, a distinguished apostle, shall be another instance in the case, Acts ix. 40.
When Tabitha or Dorcas lay dead in an upper chamber, and the widows stood weeping by her, and he was about to raise her, " he put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed, and turning him to the body, said, Tabitha, arise, and she opened her eyes.”_See here another miracle, like Elijah's, following secret prayer : but this was in an extraordinary case, did Peter use to pray alone? Yes, turn only to the next chapter, Acts x. 9, “ Peter went up upon the house-top to pray, about the sixth hour," which was about noon, another praying season ;* certainly he missed not morning and night for such devotion: he went to the top of the flat-rooft house, which was a private place, and equivalent to a closet; there Peter prayed, in prayer he fell into a trance, and in that trance he had a vision concerning the calling in of the
• Psalm lv. 17.
Gentiles,* a glorious mystery and transcendent mercy towards us poor outcasts—a mystery which had been kept secret since the world began, hid from ages and generations—a blessed mystery that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of God's promise in Christ by the gospel; yet this transcendent design of love was manifested to an eminent apostle while he was in the performance of this duty of secret prayer : this is very remarkable, and worth observation.
10. The last instance is of our blessed Saviour. Our dear Lord Jesus was very conversant in this duty. Mark, i. 35, “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed :” our precious Redeemer went about doing good, and the day-time he usually spent in preaching, conversation, healing diseases, &c. and the night he spent in prayer, meditation, and such other holy exercises : he had scarce time to eat or sleep for doing his father's work; he spent not one moment of time unprofitably in above thirty years: how early doth he rise, and earnestly doth he follow his business in communion with his Father, and in the work of our redemption ? Yea, Luke vi. 12, “He continued all night in prayer to God;" that is, on a mountain, in secret prayer, and frequently elsewhere we shall find him alone, and in this work:t and wherefore was all this? Was it not principally for our sales ? for our salvation, and imitation ? Yes certainly, he designed our good in all; he prayed that we might pray, and reap the profit of all his prayers and purchase. Hear we Cyprian expressly speaking on this point: “He taught us to pray not by words only but deeds; himself praying frequently, both supplicating, and demonstrat* Rom. xvi. 25. Col. i. 26, 27. Eph. iii. 5,6. Matt. xxvi. 36.