English pastor Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) was a highly regarded teacher of prayer. He said this: “It is in the secret place we learn that silence is the best speech and listening is the best part of prayer.”
Drawing near to the Lord in solitude and quiet is a discipline—and not an easy one for many of us to acquire. Chadwick said he took nothing but his Bible when he withdrew into that alone place with God. No hymn book, no list of prayer needs, no list of people who needed intercession. It wasn’t that he didn’t sing to the Lord and pray as he had committed to pray, but when he went into his secret place, it was to listen and not speak.
Years ago, I served on a board with a woman who would suddenly leave our group and go away somewhere. I would see Ellen quickly stand and leave our gathering, never while we were convened in meeting, but in other times when we were together. I asked Ellen about this and she said sometimes she would feel an urgent need to hear God on a matter that was troubling her and she was scurrying away to find a place of solitude where she could be alone with Him and receive direction.
When I was a college student, there was a chapel in the basement of our library, which was right next to my dorm. The chapel was quite small and the entrance was secluded. I found it to be an ideal place to spend alone time with God.
In hospitals, chapels are provided for those hurting over what loved ones are experiencing in illness. Or, maybe they are afraid of a coming diagnosis or prognosis. When only miracles will do, we visit God with greater fervor that when life is going along well. Probably, we are never more surrendered than when we are frantic regarding an outcome.
Andrew Murray gives five essential elements of prayer:
- The heart’s desire
- The expression of that desire in prayer
- The faith that carries the prayer to God
- The acceptance of God’s answer
- The experience of the desired blessing
Of the five essentials, perhaps it is the fourth one that we deal with most effectively when we have learned to draw near to God in solitude. This will require practice. The desperate heart wants God do as is asked and will make the case to God for why that answer should be a certain way. But it is the one practiced in intimacy that will be able to give all over to God’s will and trust that His will is the very best possible answer. It is that child of God devoted to time alone with the Father that will find peace in accepting God’s answer.
Photo courtesy of Mark Hearn.