God sees us praying (or not)

Manton Monday — Insights from puritan Thomas Manton

One of the great encouragements for keeping up our prayers comes from the instructions of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:6   “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” esv. Jesus reminds us that our heavenly Father sees us. Of course, such a fact will unsettle those who neglect prayer (or do worse things, thinking no one sees them). Puritan Thomas Manton speaks of both consequences of the fact that “God sees” us in secret  — Manton

Here are the encouragements to this personal, private, and solitary prayer, taken from God’s sight, and God’s reward. From God’s sight, [He observes] thy carriage; the posture and frame of they spirit, the fervor and uprightness of heart which thou manifest in prayer is all known to Him. Mark, that which is the hypocrite’s fear, and binds condemnation upon the heart of a wicked man, is here made to be the saints’ support and ground of comfort — that they pray to an all-seeing God (1 John 3:20, “…for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything…”). Their heavenly Father sees in secret; He can interpret their groans, and read the language of their sighs. Though they fail as to the outside of a duty, and there be much brokenness of speech, yet God sees brokenness of heart there, and it is that He looks after. God sees.

[Works, Vol. 1, page 9]

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Pray in a closet?

Manton Monday — Insights from puritan Thomas MantonManton

Matthew 6:5-6   “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” esv

Of course, most of us also know the KJV  which says, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door….” In what way are Christians to understand this duty in prayer? Are we to make use of a physical secret place for prayer?

Puritan Thomas Manton provides some helpful insight today —

These words are not to be taken metaphorically, not yet pressed too literally. Not metaphorically, as some would carry them:  ‘Descend into thy heart, be serious and devout with God in the closet of thy soul, which is the most inward recess and retiring place of man.’ This were to be wanton with Scripture. The literal sense is not to be lear without necessity, not yet pressed too literally, as if prayer should be confined to a chamber and closet. Christ prayed in the mountain (Matt. 19:23); and (Gen. 24:63) Isaac went into the field to meditate. The meaning is, private prayer must be performed in a private place, retired from company and the sight of men as much as may be.

[Works, Vol. 1, page 8]

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Combined strength in prayer

Manton Monday — Insights from Puritan Thomas Manton

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20 esv

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The promises of God’s word are precious, especially those related to prayer. One promise found here in Matthew 18 leads us to believe that there is a greater ‘impact’ (for lack of a better word) when groups of believers pray together. Listen to the commentary of Thomas Manton on this Scripture (written while discussing another verse about praying in private).

“When they shall agree in one public prayer, it seems to have a greater efficacy put upon it — when more are interested in the same prayer — when, with a combined force, they do as it were besiege the God of heaven, and will not let Him go unless He leaves a blessing. Look, as the [civil or legal] petition of a shire and county to an authority is more than a private man’s supplication, so when we meet as a church to pray, as as a family, there is combined strength. And in this sense, that saying of the schoolmen is orthodox enough — viz., that prayer made in the church has a more easy audience with God. Why? Because of the concurrence of many which are met there to worship God.”

[Works, Volume 1, page 8; emphasis added]

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Delivered In Person

MANTON MONDAYS – Insights and quotes from Puritan Thomas Manton1140201_bible_in_pew

Learn to regard the promises and threatenings of the Word with more reverence, as if God in person had delivered them to you. 1st Thessalonians 2:13, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the Word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the Word of God.”

Look to the threatenings. God has left room for His mercy, and that must be sought in God’s way, or else we have no security and peace.

Look to the promises. Seek after them more, and mind them more. Surely your neglect says you do not count them true (1st John 5:10). If one should offer you a hundred pounds [currency], and you should go away and never accept it, it is a sign that you do not believe him.Venture more on the promises; they are God’s bills of exchange, whereby you have treasures in heaven.

[Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. X.445-446]

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Going home

“Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

Jesus is heard to say “you will be going home.” The spiritual author Octavius Winslow reflects on these verses in his Morning & Evening Thoughts for December 31st….
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GOING home! what a soothing reflection! what an ecstatic prospect! The heart throbs quicker—the eye beams brighter—the spirit grows elastic—the whole soul uplifts its soaring pinion, eager for its flight, at the very thought of heaven. “I go to prepare a place for you,” was one of the last and sweetest assurances that breathed from the lips of the departing Savior; and though uttered eighteen hundred years ago, those words come stealing upon the memory like the echoes of by-gone music, thrilling the heart with holy and indescribable transport. Yes! He has passed within the veil as our Forerunner; He has prepared heaven for us, and by His gentle, wise, and loving discipline He is preparing us for heaven.”

Enough that God is my Father, my Sun, and Shield; that He will give grace and glory, and will withhold no good and needed thing. Enough that Christ is my Portion, my Advocate, my Friend, and that, whatever else may pass away, His sympathy will not cease, His sufficiency will not fail, nor His love die. Enough that the everlasting covenant is mine, and that that covenant, made with me, is ordered in all things, and sure. Enough that heaven is my rest, that towards it I am journeying, and that I am one year nearer its blessed and endless enjoyment.”

Excerpt From: “The Works of Octavius Winslow” iBooks (ePub) edition*

*Available free (on 12/31/13) in ePub or .mobi formats at Monergism.

Renew your strength

The famous verse at the end of Isaiah 40 says, “…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Too often we read that and envision “waiting” on the Lord to be some sort of placid inertness. Far from it! This is an active, expectant waiting — that maintains a vigilant readiness, that flexes ones muscles for action while scanning the horizon. How else is one’s spiritual strength renewed, if not by an expectant engagement with the presence and/or the promises of God?

Today I read some similar thoughts on this Scripture by the puritan preacher Samuel Ward, who makes good use of active language in explaining his view. May these brief quotes bless you today. pdb
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Make use of your faith. This is the chief mystery of our spiritual life. Stir up your soul to talk with Christ. Consider the promises and privileges you enjoy. Think of them, roll them under your tongue, chew on them until you feel their sweetness in your soul.”

“Unstirred coals do not glow or give heat. The beauty of faith is its use. Don’t just have muscles, use them. Let a man diligently and thoroughly improve his faith and the joy it will bring to him will be great.”

The temporal trumps the eternal?

Thomas Manton writes:

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“Alas, in general, things temporal work more upon us than things eternal, and the things visible than things invisible. A small matter will prove to be a temptation, and a little pleasure or profit will greatly motivate us. We do not have half the seriousness in spiritual things as in earthly. Surely men do not cherish heaven, since they labor and care for it so little. Alas! They live as if they have never heard of such a thing, or do not believe what they hear, since every toy and trifle is preferred before it. If a poor man understood that some great inheritance was bequeathed to him, would he not often think of it, and rejoice in it, and long to take possession of it? The promise of eternal life is left with us in the gospel, but who puts in for a share? Who longs for it? Who takes hold of it? Who gives all diligence to make it sure? Who desires to go and see it? O, that I might be dissolved, and be with Christ! If these hopes have so little an influence on us, it is a sign we do not cherish them more in our hearts.”