“The highest human honor is access to the king. Even a single interview with the monarch is highly coveted, and if obtained never forgotten. How much more should access to the ‘King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible’, be prized and improved. But alas, it is not so in general. We are naturally averse to ‘draw nigh unto God’. We invent excuses for the neglect of prayer and are prone to hurry over devotion. The time which ought to be sacred to God is often sacrificed to the world; but we seldom sacrifice to God any of the time which belongs to the world. There is nothing that we have more reason to be ashamed of than our low views upon the subject of secret prayer.
In the Old Testament, the high priest had access annually to the mercy-seat in the holy of holies; and when within the veil God communed with him from between the cherubim. He could say with certainty as he entered with blood and incense, ‘I will hear what God the Lord will speak for He will speak peace to His people’. Now with such an introduction as the typical blood of the atonement, and such a welcome awaiting him, what should we have thought and said of the high priest if he had neglected to go into the holy of holies, or had not gone to the mercy-seat, or had come out before he heard what God the Lord would speak. Had any priest been guilty of this neglect, all hearts would have been shocked at his impiety, and all voices united in condemning him. We should have expected to hear that, like the offerers of ‘strange fire’, he was suddenly consumed by fire. But is it not more shocking and sinful not to draw nigh unto God now that the eternal throne is the mercy-seat, the blood of the Lamb our introduction and plea? And access to God on the mercy-seat is now daily. At all times, in all places, and under all circumstances, we may ‘come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need’. Why, then, is this freedom of access so little prized or improved? The Ark of the Covenant was, no doubt, splendid, and the golden mercy seat sublime, and the cherubim majestic; but these were only ‘shadows of good things to come’; whereas we have in our closets the ‘good things’ themselves. There we may behold the brighteness of the Father’s glory in the face of Jesus and see His person and work in all that was shadowed within the veil. All the real value of the holy of holies and its magnificent mercy-seat was, that there God heard and answered prayer. The types are now useless and the answer of prayer secured by the intercession of Christ. The closet is preferable to the temple if communion with God be our object. When we retire to it we meet God only, we speak to God alone.
“Alone with God! How solemn and sublime! Such access to Him has no parallel in heaven itself. We could not have entered within the veil of the temple, even if we had lived when the temple was in all its glory; but, if we could have entered to pray before the mercy-seat, what would it have been compared with thus meeting in the ‘closet’ with nothing but God, and with God all to ourselves? Why should we ever be reluctant to pray, or heartless in prayer? Secret prayer is a private interview with God, as real as that at the bush in Midian, or that on Mount Peniel, vouchsafed to Moses and Jacob. If therefore we would readily welcome such visits from God as the patriarchs were favored with, what ought we to think of the daily privilege of visiting God in secret, and being noticed, heard and remembered by Him for good? Truly prayer is access to God. How willingly and cheerfully ought we to enter our closets, and pray to the Father who seeth in secret and rewardeth openly!”
–Robert Philip, taken from Communion with God; A Guide to the Devotional Spirit
Published and available through Reformation Heritage Books.