Those of us who have been reading David McIntyre’s classic work The Hidden Life of Prayer have now come to the end of the book, and before I leave off, I want to share just a couple of reflections on this week’s reading. This week we read a chapter titled “The Hidden Riches of the Secret Place” (and then followed it with “The Open Recompense”). Having already told us why we ought to pray and having given some direction on the method of prayer, McIntyre now wants to point to the treasures stored up for those who do pray and who pray faithfully. He finds two of them.
The first is holiness. “Through prayer our graces are quickened, and holiness is wrought in us.” Because prayer is a means through which we experience and exercise all of God’s graces, it is a crucial component of the path to holiness. He says, “Communion with God is the condition of spiritual growth. It is the soul in which all the graces of the divine life root themselves. If the virtues were the work of man, we might perfect them one by one, but they are the fruit of the Spirit and grow together in one common life.”
He offers an important encouragement about our growth in holiness, saying
While we abide in Christ, we ought not to allow ourselves to be discouraged by the apparent slowness of our advancement in grace. In nature, growth proceeds with varying speed. Sibbes compares the progressive sanctification of believers to the increase in herbs and trees,” which “grow at the root in winter, in the leaf in summer, and in the seed in autumn.” The first of these forms of increase seems very slow; the second is more rapid; the third rushes on to full maturity. In a few days of early autumn a field of grain will seem to ripen more than in weeks of midsummer.
Do you want to grow in holiness? Then you must pray. Do you pray? Then look to your life and you will see that growth in holiness.
The second hidden treasure in prayer is intimacy with Jesus Christ. This is, of course, directly related to the first. “Communion with God discovers the excellence of His character, and by beholding Him the soul is transformed. Holiness is conformity to Christ, and this is secured by a growing intimacy with Him. It is evident that this consideration opens up a vast field for reflection.”
He offers several ways in which prayer develops our relational intimacy with the Savior: prayerfulness produces serenity of spirit in which we both delight and trust in God; prayer teaches us to rule our lives according to God’s will; through our acceptance of God’s will for us we are led into richer influence and wider usefulness on behalf of God. Then he says what so many of us have found to be true:
An English scholar has told us that those who have helped him most were not learned divines nor eloquent preachers, but holy men and women who walked with God, and who revealed unconsciously the unadorned goodness which the blessed Spirit had wrought in them. Those saintly persons had looked on Christ until they were changed into His likeness; they had tarried on the Mount of God until the uncreated glory shone upon their brow.
Holiness and intimacy with Christ come by way of prayer and that holiness is attractive. That holiness draws other Christians who long to experience that same kind of intimacy with the common Savior.
In reading this book we have learned a lot about prayer. Let me close with a warning that applies as much to me as to any of us: it will all be a waste if we do not now pray. So pray!
The purpose of this program is to read these books together. If you have something to say, whether a comment or criticism or question, feel free to use the comment section for that purpose.
More in The Character of the Christian:
- Sunday Reflection
- Outsourcing Prayer
- Book Review – A Time of Departing
- Book Review – Praying Backwards (Don’t Skip This Review)