The Blessings Of Solitary Devotion
Theme: Positive Christianity
by Darrell Hymel
In Matthew, chapter six, Jesus warned about the hypocrisy of practicing righteousness, giving alms, and offering prayers in order to be seen of men, The multiple public prayers, offerings and fastings of the Pharisees had deceived them into thinking they were right with God, All of their prayers, praise, and service before God was also done before men, These public acts were not wrong, but they should have begun to question their motives when all their devotion was before the public.
How can we detect if we are guilty of the same thing? What percent of our prayers, meditations and praise are offered while others are around? We pray at mealtime with our families, at bedtime with our children, and three times a week with the brethren, but none of these things can take the place of genuine individual communion with God. If we have not grasped the positive benefits of personal worship, we may be robbed of the blessings of public worship as well.
David is an example of a man who truly knew the benefits of worship in solitude. David lived during the time of a literal holy place, but he knew what many Christians do not comprehend: the avenues of worship are traveled over the heart, not enroute to a building. David’s singing, praying, and meditating were not limited to the public sanctuary. He knew that the man that was blessed by God “delights in the law of the Lord and in his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:3).
Psalms 63 expresses a time in David’s life when he was a refugee in a “dry and thirsty land” (v. 1), But Davids physical appetite was overpowered by his hungering and thirsting for God. How could David worship God on this occasion when circumstances seemed to dictate otherwise? David knew that God’s lovingkindness was greater than life itself (v.3). Only when we come to know what true fellowship and life with God is, can we “hate our own life” as Christ demands (Luke 14:26); and then daily, solitary worship will occur spontaneously.
What did David’s worship consist of on this occasion? “Because Thy loving~ kindness is greater than life, my lips will praise Thee” (vv. 3,4). Whether in prayer or song, David’s lips were active.He later said, “My mouth offers praises with joyful lips” (v. 5), David’s actions remind us of James’ admonition, “ls anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises” (James 5:13). Ironically, we, like David, can be both suffering and full of ioy at the same time in worship,
David also used his body in private worship. “I will lift up my hands in thy name” (v. 4). What are our motives for using the bended knee or bowed head, if we only do that when in the public services? Are we doing it to be seen of men, or before God?
How could David worship for any length of time when he was weary and hungry and sleepy (vv. 1,6)? How could our Lord focus His attention toward the Father in prayer for a whole night? David’s spirit was hungrier than his body. “My soul thirsts for Thee” …. “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness” (vv. 1,5). Have we not stayed up all night at the bedside of a loved one? Did not our loving concern drive away the thought of all physical exhaustion’! When we understand the power of prayer, the sweetness of meditation, then our spirit will drive us to miss sleep or meals.
David was also active in his worship with his mind. “When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches” (v. 6). Has meditation become a forgotten practice today? What is the difference between remembering and meditation? The memory is the chest in which we lay up truth, but meditation is the intellect tasting and delighting in truth. There is as much difference between remembering and meditating as there is between a glass of water and the drinking of it. The word of God must occupy the affection as well as the understanding. The words of our public worship are but mockery if our meditations are not acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14).
What if we frequently teach Gods word, sing praises to Him, and pray in public but fail to do so privately? Should this be a warning sign? The same man who “delights” in Gods statutes is also found “meditating” on His precepts (Psalm 119:15-16).
We will not withdraw our mind very long from what we inwardly delight in. As the miser often turns to look upon his treasure, so does the devout believer, by frequent meditation, turn over the priceless treasures of Gods word in his heart. To this man, meditation is not a task but a joy (Psalm 119:14-16). No spiritual exercise can be any more profitable than devout meditation, solitary prayer and spontaneous singing. It will make the mind wise, the affections warm, the soul fat and flourishing, and our life and speech fruitful.
Those who preach and teach need to realize that the most powerful lessons come not only from hours of study, but from days of meditation and prayer. Let us not limit our worship to times when the building is warm, our clothes are just right, the hour is convenient; but let us emulate David and let our thirst for God in a dry and thirsty land lead us to seek God in secret.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE JANUARY, 1984