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The Vital Importance Of Private Prayer

Category Articles
Date June 2, 2006

The Secret Key to Heaven – the Vital Importance of Private Prayer, was written by Thomas Brooks and published by The Banner of Truth Trust. It is a long time since we read such a profitable book – howbeit it comes with a gentle reproof for our spiritual slothfulness and indolence.

The subject is the vital necessity in the Christian life for secret prayer. (“Closet prayer” is the term the author uses throughout, as his discourse is based on Matthew 6. 6: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”) So the sub-title is “The Vital Importance of Private Prayer.” Right at the beginning, in the preface, the author states: “The power of religion and godliness lives, thrives or dies, as closet prayer lives, thrives or dies. Godliness never rises to a higher pitch than when men keep closest to their closets.” He continues:

“Every man is that really which he is secretly. Never tell me how handsomely, how purely, how bravely, this or that man acts his part before others but tell me, if you can, how he acts his part before God in his closet; for the man is that certainly that he is secretly.”

Thomas Brooks would strongly have disagreed with the commonly repeated saying: “The prayer meeting is the barometer (or thermometer) of the church.” “No,” he would have emphatically replied, “secret prayer!”

This book, first published at the time of the great plague in 1665, is written in true Puritan style but Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) has been called “the most readable of the Puritans.” So this would be a good introduction for any who have heard of the Puritans’ works but are rather fearful about venturing to read them. There is nothing difficult or complicated here but plain, simple, gracious writing. People today may smile at the Puritans saying “nineteenthly” and “twentiethly” (as Brooks does) but this is to keep his points separate and make them clear.

The only section of the book which to us seems dated is the short section dealing with the problem that household servants and maids may have in finding time and also a private place for prayer. But even this shows the pastoral sympathy and care of the author – as in the seventeenth century there were many in this position.

Interestingly, Brooks at the outset states that he had never heard a sermon on the subject and had never come across a book written on the subject. Speaking to old, godly men and women, they said the same.

Thomas Brooks, as well as speaking of the great value of private prayer, deals with the difficulties that people have: wandering thoughts; the temptations of Satan; lack of ability in prayer; weakness and infirmity – and also Satan’s constant thrust: if God knows all your desires, if He will accomplish His purposes and do what is best, then why pray? The point is made very clear: we must not trust in our private prayers, or think there is anything meritorious in them. Our trust and our only plea must be Christ.

The book is enriched by numerous illustrations and by many short, apt, pithy sayings. These latter are so profitable. We feel it would be a good thing if every professed believer in our chapels were to read The Secret Key to Heaven. We are left with a solemn sense of the vital importance of all that Brooks says and a sense of our own failures in secret prayer. We have to look to the Holy Spirit for his sense of divine enabling.

Ben Ramsbottom

[Taken with permission from the Gospel Standard June 2006]

The Secret Key to Heaven (ISBN 085151 9245) retails for $10.00 (US), £6.25 (UK and ROW) and can be purchased from the Banner of Truth book catalogue

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