By Andrew Murray
At the conference, a brother who had earnestly confessed his neglect of prayer, but who was able, later, to declare that his eyes had been opened to see that the Lord really supplied grace for all that he required from us, asked if some hints could not be given as to the best way of spending time profitably in the inner chamber. There was no opportunity then for giving an answer. Perhaps the following thoughts may be of help:
1. As you enter the inner chamber let your first work be to thank God for the unspeakable love which invites you to come to him and to converse freely with him. If your heart is cold and head, remember that religion is not a matter of feeling, but has to do first with the will. Raise your heart to God and thank him for the assurance you have that he looks down on you and will bless you. Through such an act of faith you honour God and draw your soul away from being occupied with itself. Think also of the glorious grace of the Lord Jesus, who is willing to teach you to pray and to give you the disposition to do so. Think, too, of the Holy Spirit who was purposely given to cry, 'Abba, Father', in your heart, and to help your weakness in prayer. Five minutes spent thus will strengthen your faith for your work in the inner chamber. Once more I say, begin with an act of thanksgiving and praise God for the inner chamber and the promise of blessing there.
2. You must prepare yourself for prayer by prayerful Bible study. The great reason why the inner chamber is not attractive is that people do not know how to pray. Their stock of words is soon exhausted and they do not know what further to say, because they forget that prayer is not a soliloquy, where everything comes from one side; but it is a dialogue, where God's child listens to what the Father says, and replies to it, and then asks for the things he needs.
Read a few verses from the Bible. Do not concern yourself with the difficulties contained in them. You can consider these later; but take what you understand, apply it to yourself, and ask the Father to make his word light and power in your heart. Thus you will have material enough for prayer from the word which the Father speaks to you; you will also have the liberty to ask for things you need. Keep on in this way, and the inner chamber will become at length, not a place where you sigh and struggle only, but one of living fellowship with the Father in heaven. Prayerful study of the Bible is indispensable for powerful prayer.
3. When you have thus received the word into your heart, turn to prayer. But do not attempt it hastily or thoughtlessly, as though you knew well enough how to pray. Prayer in our own strength brings no blessing. Take time to present yourself reverently and in quietness before God. Remember his greatness and holiness and love. Think over what you wish to ask from him. Do not be satisfied with going over the same things every day. No child goes on saying the same thing day after day to his earthly father .
Converse with the Father is coloured by the needs of the day. Let your prayer be something definite, arising either out of the word which you have read, or out of the real soul-needs which you long to have satisfied. Let your prayer be so definite that you can say as you go out, 'I know what 1 have asked from my Father, and I expect an answer.' It is a good plan sometimes to take a piece of paper and write down what you wish to pray for. You might keep such a paper for a week or more, and repeat the prayers till some new need arises.
4. What has been said is in reference to your own needs. But you know that we are allowed to Pray that we may help also in the needs of others. One great reason why prayer in the inner chamber does not bring more joy and blessing is that it is too selfish, and selfishness is the death of prayer.
Remember your family; your congregation, with its interests; your own neighbourhood; and the church to which you belong. Let your heart be enlarged and take up the interests of missions and of the church through the whole world. Become an intercessor, and you will experience for the first time the blessedness of prayer, as you find out that God will make use of you to share his blessing with others through prayer. You will begin to feel that there is something worth living for, as you find that you have something to say to God, and that he from heaven will do things in answer to your prayers which otherwise would not have been done.
A child can ask his father for bread. A full-grown son converses with him about all the interests of his business, and about his further purposes. A weak child of God prays only for himself, but a full-grown man in Christ understands how to consult with God over what must take place in the kingdom. Let your prayer list bear the names of those for whom you pray - your minister, and all other ministers, and the different missionary affairs with which you are connected. Thus the inner chamber will really become a wonder of God's goodness and a fountain of great joy. It will become the most blessed place on earth. It is a great thing to say, but it is the simple truth, that God will make it a Bethel, where his angels shall ascend and descend, and where you will cry out: 'The Lord shall be my God.' He will make it also Peniel, where you will see the face of God, as a prince of God, as one who wrestled with the angel and overcame him.
5. Do not forget the close bond between the inner chamber and the outer world. The attitude of the inner chamber must remain with us all the day. The object of the inner chamber is so to unite us to God that we may have him always abiding with us. Sin, thoughtlessness, and yielding to the flesh, or to the world unfit us for the inner chamber and bring a cloud over the soul. If you have stumbled, or fallen, return to the inner chamber; let your first work be to invoke the blood of Jesus and to claim cleansing by it. Rest not till by confession you have repented of and put away your sin. Let the precious blood really give you a fresh freedom of approach to God. Remember that the roots of your life in the inner chamber strike far out in body and soul so as to manifest themselves in business life. Let 'the obedience of faith', in which you pray in secret, rule you constantly. The inner chamber is intended to bind man to God, to supply him with power from God, to enable him to live for God alone. God be thanked for the inner chamber and for the blessed life which he will enable us there to experience and nourish.
Before the creation of the world time did not exist. God lived in eternity in a way which we little understand. With creation, time began, and everything was placed under its power. God has placed all living creatures under a law of slow growth. Think of the length of time it takes for a child to become a man in body and mind. In learning, in wisdom, in business, in handicraft, and in politics, everything somehow depends on patience and perseverance. Everything needs time.
It is just the same in religion. There can be no converse with a holy God, no fellowship between heaven and earth, no power for the salvation of the souls of others, unless much time is set apart for it. Just as it is necessary for a child for long years to eat and learn every day, so the life of grace entirely depends on the time men are willing to give to it day by day.
The minister is appointed by God to teach and help those who are engaged in the ordinary avocations of life to find time and to use it aright for the preservation of the spiritual life. The minister cannot do this unless he himself has a living experience of a life of prayer. His highest calling is not preaching, or speaking, or parochial visitation, but it is to cultivate the life of God daily, and to be a witness of what the Lord teaches him and accomplishes in him.
Was it not so with the Lord Jesus? Why must he, who had no sin to confess, sometimes spend all night in prayer to God? Because the divine life had to be strengthened in intercourse with his Father. His experience of a life in which he took time for fellowship with God has enabled him to share that life with us.
Oh, that each minister might understand that he has received his time from God with a servitude on it! God must have for fellowship with himself the first and the best of your time. Without this, your preaching and labour have little power. Here on earth 1 may spend my time for the money or the learning which I receive in exchange. The minister can exchange his time for the divine power and the spiritual blessings to be obtained from heaven. That, and nothing else, makes him a man of God and ensures that his preaching will be in the demonstration of the Spirit and power.