The Shut Door

[Matt. 6:6]---' But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompence thee.'

The world is always curious about the inner life of notable people. That is the foundation of gossip. It is the secret of appeal of certain kinds of literature and journalism. The community knows that a man's real life is a secret thing, and it is always prying to find out. Most men in our time who live a notable kind of life write their own biography, telling of the personal things which they feel to have been so important, and of which the world knows nothing. If they fail to write it themselves, a score of other people leap forward to tell us about the private sayings and doings of those who have loomed large upon the stage of the world.

There are no memorabilia of Jesus. What would we not give for a word of His own about those silent years, about the personality of His mother, of how truth grew upon Him, or how His message was shaped within His mind---priceless information it would be! But we shall never get it; it has gone into the oblivion where unrecorded things go. Jesus used the personal pronoun more than anybody else who has ever lived, but He never spoke about Himself. He only took the place that belonged to Him in the midst of cosmic truth.

And yet the total impression created by His life is not obscurity, but something strangely luminous. Anybody could make Jesus reveal the depth of His being. A little child could cause Him to open His heart. The clumsy finger of a poor frail Samaritan woman could open the secret door through which His very soul became visible.

A luminous life, an intimate life, and yet not a word about its secret sources. But we know this now---we know that Jesus had an inner chamber into which He loved to go and, when the door was shut, pray to the Father.

One must guard against being too literal. Perhaps the room that Jesus spoke of could not be very exactly localized. When one thinks of the little home in Nazareth, where He spent so many years, which probably had no more than two rooms at the most, with an adjoining carpenter's shop, where there must have been at least seven other people dwelling besides Himself, one wonders where Jesus found that chamber of His own in which He prayed. When He traveled up and down the country, accepting the hospitality of whosoever chose to offer it, and often less fortunate than the foxes and birds, having nowhere to lay His head---what about the room then?

We cannot think of that ' inner chamber' too literally, but there must always have been, even upon a hillside, the possibility of a mental retirement, so secluded and so intimate that it seemed to Him as an inner chamber of which He could shut the door. Well for us it was so, for many of His disciples ever since have found practical difficulty in preserving for themselves an inner chamber in which they could pray. Our modern life makes great inroads upon our privacy, and one has not to know very much of our domestic conditions to realize that if fellowship with God depended upon some location of that kind it would be impossible for many folk.

It is not the lack of space that makes communion difficult for many people; it is also the haste and disconnectedness of our modern life, the pressure of its cares, the thrust of its many duties. The world we live in grows ever larger and more difficult. Its voices through newspapers, radio and tv fill our ears the whole day long. Life has lost peace and stability for many of us. But, above all, in this ceaseless round of things we lose touch with God. The roots of our life have little chance to reach the eternal springs. Above everything else almost in these days we need solitude---time to be "alone with the Alone."

Most of all, when we have shut the door, God has His opportunity to become real to us, and to make us sure of His comfort and His care. In quietness God speaks, if we will listen patiently and honestly. It is within the soul He makes Himself known to us. In the cool of the day He walks in the garden of the heart, and His voice comes seeking us through the stillness. It is not by logical argument we come to know God. We listen to discussions, go to conferences, and our minds are confused. But do we visit often enough the one place where He is to be found---the world within our souls? ' Be still, and know that I am God.' That demand for inner quietness holds today more strongly than ever.

The greatest adventure we can make is not in the world without. It is to shut the door and enter the world within, where God waits to speak to us. For many of us that would bring surprising discoveries.

It is in this quietness with God that our souls are nourished. Like plants in the garden, the quality of our life on the surface depends on the roots---the life below the surface. God's care and love cannot become effective till we cease from our own cares and the burden of planning our own life. In quiet the great convictions of faith strengthen their hold on us.

It is not always easy to shut the door. The silence can be invaded by cares that absorb. The heart which was meant to be a temple may become a thoroughfare for the traffic of business. That is the real meaning of the word ' profane.' It may take time and patience to shut the world out, to become silent enough to hear God speak. We are told there are nerves in the retina of the eye which become active only in the twilight. But it takes time for them to come into play. We have to wait in the darkness till the light out of which we have come has ceased to dazzle. It is the same with the inner eye. We must be patient. But the mood in which God can speak to us does not come by trying to empty the mind of everything from without. It comes by thinking about God, His care, His grace, His willingness to guide and help. As we think on Him, bit by bit the outside world relaxes its grip. And through our hearts, like a gentle tide, God's peace comes flooding in.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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