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Get Alone with God: The Religion of the Closet

Do you have a gnawing ache to get alone with God? Do you, like Jesus, make it a habit to withdraw to a solitary place to pray? Getting alone with God to pray is what Jonathan Edwards calls the “religion of the closet.”

The Religion of the Closet

Jonathan Edwards writes,

A true Christian doubtless delights in religious fellowship, and Christian conversation, and finds much to affect his heart in it; but he also delights at times to retire from all mankind to converse with God in solitary places. And this also has its peculiar advantages for fixing his heart, and engaging its affections. True religion disposes persons to be much alone in solitary places, for holy meditation and prayer. … [S]o it wrought in Jesus Christ. How often do we read of his retiring into mountains and solitary places, for holy converse with his Father! (emphasis added)

Do you delight to “retire from all mankind to converse with God”?

In other words, are there times each day when you withdraw to a place where you are by yourself—and you put aside social media, the internet, television, and radio in order to be alone with God and hear Him speak to you?

Edwards continues,

It is the nature of true grace, that however it loves Christian society in its place, yet it in a peculiar manner delights in retirement, and secret converse with God. So that if persons appear greatly engaged in social religion, and but little in the religion of the closet, and are often highly affected when with others, and but little moved when they have none but God and Christ to converse with, it looks very darkly upon their religion. (emphasis added) 1

Do you enjoy church and social religion, but you dread having to shut out all other voices to be with God alone?

Are you greatly moved by socializing with people—whether in person or through phone conversation, text messages, social media, email, etc.—but you’re not greatly moved when it’s just you conversing with God and Jesus?

Do you open Facebook first thing every morning to see what your friends are doing—without first praying and seeing what God is up to in Heaven?

Do you check your email inbox first thing in the morning to see what messages from work or friends are waiting for you—without first picking up your Bible in prayer and discovering what messages from God are waiting for you in His Word?

“In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch” (Psalm 5:3, NASB).

Are you “greatly engaged in social religion … but little in the religion of the closet”?

There is a time to be engaged with those around us as followers of Christ, but there is also a time to withdraw from others and be alone with God.

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, TLB).

Leonard Ravenhill echoes Edwards’ point above in a more straight-forward, simple way:

“Tell me how much time you spend alone with God
and I will tell you how spiritual you are.”

— Leonard Ravenhill

Jesus’ Example

Scripture gives us example after example of men and women who had a longing to be alone with God—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets, Mary, the apostle John … and others.

But chief among them was Jesus when He walked this earth.

Edwards exclaimed, “How often do we read of [Jesus’] retiring into mountains and solitary places, for holy converse with his Father!”

In The Cinderella of the Church Today, I write,

Our enemy, the devil, pulls out a new trick each day in order to keep us from prayer. Often we succumb without the least bit of resistance or discernment as to what is taking place. Most days he doesn’t even have to find a new trick. The same one he used yesterday still works to keep us from praying today.

Beloved, when was the last time you spent thirty minutes in prayer? When was the last time you spent thirty minutes watching TV? The place and priority of prayer in our lives is quickly established. I pray continually throughout the day, as I’m sure you do as well, but this is no excuse for not setting apart time just for prayer. God will not do for us what He would not do for Jesus—exempt us from the need to pray!

If our Redeemer—the One who spoke this world into place, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world—found prayer necessary in God’s economy, then who are we to try to live by any other standard? Who are we to think that we can attempt to live without it?

Prayer is one of the most noted characteristics of Jesus’ life.

It marked His beginning: At His baptism, it was “while He prayed” that “heaven opened” and the Holy Spirit descended (Lu.3:21-22).

Prayer was a constant throughout His ministry as He often withdrew to the wilderness or to a solitary place to pray … even spending all night in prayer on the mountainside (Lu. 5:16, 6:12).

Prayer marked the end as well: As He took His final breaths in flesh, Jesus continued praying (Mt. 27:46; Lu 23:34,36).

“You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so,” Jesus said in John 13. “That is what I am … I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it — and live a blessed life.”

Jesus, our Redeemer, delighted to retire, at times, from all mankind to converse with His Father. How can we, who have His life working in us, not join Him in this delight?

If You Don’t Enjoy Time Alone with God

If you don’t enjoy time alone with God, don’t let that keep you from it. Make a deliberate choice each day to get alone with God, to talk to Him and listen to Him speak to you through His word … and you will find that enjoyment follows.

Neither your flesh nor the enemy of your soul want you to spend time with God. Your flesh, your human nature, wants to be god of your life. It wants what it wants when it wants it. It wants to be lazy and sleep late in the morning… or get right to work … or leap right into entertainment and things of this world.

Don’t let your feelings control your actions. Make this choice out of discipline. Spend time alone with God because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of how you “feel” about it. And your feelings with follow.

Be Prepared for the Enemy’s Interruptions

As David Wilkerson says, when we set our hearts to seek God, the devil will put on us a conspiracy of interruptions. He will do everything he can to keep us from the prayer closet.

So be prepared. When the phone rings, the baby cries, or a work emergency occurs, know what it is. It’s part of the devil’s conspiracy of interruptions. Even if the emergency temporarily distracts you, don’t let the conspiracy keep you from the closet.

A Prayer

Father, help us make the choice to go to a private place, alone, to converse with You each day. Help us shut out other voices—television, cell phones, text messages, social media, computer, email—and listen intently to Yours.

May the Holy Spirit breathe upon Your word and speak to us intimately. As we worship You, hear Your voice, and encounter You, we’ll find there is no other place we’d rather be!

So meet with us today, Lord. We cry out with the Psalmist, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2, NIV).

Jesus, may prayer be one of the most noted characteristics of our lives as well. Give us a desire to fall at your feet and worship you. Right here. Right now. Because the very best we can possibly have in this life … is waiting for us at Your feet.

In Your name, so be it!

A Moment of Worship: At Your Feet

Melissa Greene Country Jubilee

At Your Feet feat. Melissa Greene
Written by Tony Wood, Chad Cates, Ronnie Freeman
From the Album: Next Step
Listen on Apple Music | Buy on iTunes
Listen on Prime Music | Buy on Amazon

 

Bible Reading: Matthew 6:6, 33; Luke 10:38-42; Mark 1:35-37; Luke 6:12

Questions:

  • Do you, like Jesus, make it a habit to withdraw to a solitary place to pray? Or are you so accustomed to interacting with a screen of some kind that you have an aversion to solitude?
  • Do you enjoy church and social religion, but you dread having to shut out all other voices to be with God alone?
  • Are you greatly moved by socializing with people—whether in person or through phone conversation, text messages, social media, email, etc.—but you’re not greatly moved when it’s just you and God?
  • Do you check Facebook first thing every morning to see what your friends are doing—without first praying and seeing what God is up to in Heaven?
  • Do you check email messages from work or your friends in the morning without first picking up your Bible in prayer and discovering what messages God has for you through His Word?
  • Are you “greatly engaged in social religion … but little in the religion of the closet”?
  • What do your answers say about your practice of secret prayer?
  • Will you make a commitment to get alone with God each day?

 

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  1. Religious Affections 3:10

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