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Prayer Power: The Garden of Prayer

Guideposts blogger Bob Hostetler reminds us of the rewards of spending our prayer time alone with God.

A woman prays in a garden
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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It’s that time of year again—when people of all ages set up their window boxes and tramp out to their gardens. They turn the soil, poke a seed into the hole and cover it up. They water. They wait. They weed. All for the anticipated delight of a shoot, then a stalk, next a leaf and a bloom. Beauty bursts forth from the hum­blest of efforts, bringing nourishing vegetables and fragrant flowers.

How delightful. And how like another process: prayer.

Jesus put it like this: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 NIV). With each step, Jesus sends his fol­lowers farther and deeper into solitude— much like the farmers and gardeners who till the earth, turning over the soil before burying a seed: Go. Enter your room. Shut the door. Pray.

When we pray, we push into secret, sometimes dark, places. We plant our prayers in hope, trusting in a myste­rious process, much of which passes unseen—by us, at least.

Our Father sees all, however, and he decides the day, hour, minute and moment when beauty will at last blossom forth and a garden of delights will grace the once-barren places we have planted.

Jesus did not suggest that we should never pray with others. He did not prohibit public prayers or group prayers. After all, he promised his followers that “if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19 NIV).

But Jesus contrasted sincere, private prayer with prayer that’s offered to impress or show off, and he pre­scribed secret prayer for the rewards it brings. He said, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Notice what Jesus didn’t say: “Maybe your Father will reward you.” He said, “Your Father…will reward you.” And your reward won’t be mere ego strokes or a round of applause. Your reward will come from the Father—from his bounty, creativity, wisdom and love.

Andrew Murray, author of the classic With Christ in the School of Prayer, wrote: “Jesus assures us that secret prayer cannot be fruitless: Its blessing will show itself in our life. We have but in secret, alone with God, to entrust our life before men to him; he will reward us openly; he will see to it that the answer to prayer be made manifest in his blessing upon us…. Trust him for it; depend upon him: Prayer to the Father cannot be vain; he will reward you openly.”

Jesus’ own life displayed the ample fruits of private prayer. His victory over temptation, the multiplying of the loaves and fishes, his healing of lepers and casting out of demons, his walking on water and raising of the dead all flowed from Jesus’ life of private prayer.

These are the scale and scope of the beautiful rewards that our Father, who sees what we plant in secret— even in darkness—will cause to spring up in our lives, like radiant blossoms in a sunlit garden.

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