Posted by: rcottrill | May 6, 2013

Lord, I Have Shut the Door

Words: William Marion Runyan (b. Jan. 21, 1870; d. July 29, 1957)
Music: Sanctuary (or Runyan), by William Marion Runyan

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: William Runyan served as the pastor of a number of congregations, and later was an editor for Hope Publishing Company. He edited and published books of sacred song, and wrote the words for many hymns. (The Cyber Hymnal lists 111 of these here.) Runyan also composed tunes for the lyrics of others (such as for the text of Great Is Thy Faithfulness, written by his friend and fellow pastor Thomas Chisholm). But in the case of the 1923 hymn, Lord, I Have Shut the Door, as with many more, he has given us both.

There is a place for both public and private prayer, both group and individual prayer. At the tomb of Lazarus, the Lord Jesus prayed publicly (Jn. 11:41-42). In the Gethsemane, He prayed privately (Lk. 22:41-42). During the ten days between Christ’s ascension and the birth of the church at Pentecost, Christ’s followers gathered as a group for prayer (Acts 1:13-14). And after his dramatic confrontation with the glorified Christ, Paul (then called Saul) spent time in personal prayer (Acts 9:11).

Public or group prayer can be called “corporate” prayer, a term which has mystified some. It has nothing to do with a corporation, an organized manufacturing entity. The dictionary allows the application to a group gathered for a united purpose, which is what happens in this case. Usually one person at a time prays, and others can express their agreement with the content of the prayer by an audible “Amen”  (cf. I Chron. 16:36; Neh. 8:6).

Private prayer is often, by its very nature, more personal–though we are to intercede for one another, as well as praying for our own needs (I Thess 5:25; cf. I Sam. 12:23). The Lord Jesus is seen, a number of times in the Gospels, praying alone (Matt. 14:23; Mk. 1:35; Lk. 9:18). We know that He prayed for others (Lk. 22:32; Jn. 17), but much of His communion with His heavenly Father must have related to the enormity of the task before Him. We get a small glimpse of this in His prayer in Gethsemane.

A superficial reading of the Lord’s instruction on private prayer in the Sermon on the Mount might suggest that He favours only private prayer. However, it is specifically public prayer offered for the reason of impressing others that He condemns.

“When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt. 6:5-6).

The hypocrite’s main reason for praying in public is to “be seen by men.” It’s a show, to win the admiration of others. And “they have their reward,” that is, they’re seen! But private prayer, avoids the temptation to do that. “Through [Christ] we…have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:13, 18). And the Spirit of God helps us in our praying, and brings our prayers before God, framing them according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).

In addition to worship and praise, confession and intercession, we need that personal and private time of prayer, regularly, to align ourselves with the will of God (I Jn. 5:14), and seek His mercy and grace to do His will (Heb. 4:14-16). And it is that venue for personal prayer that William Runyan describes so beautifully in his hymn, inspired by Matthew 6:6.

CH-1) Lord, I have shut the door,
Speak now the word
Which in the din and throng
Could not be heard;
Hushed now my inner heart,
Whisper Thy will,
While I have come apart,
While all is still.

CH-4) Lord, I have shut the door,
Strengthen my heart;
Yonder awaits the task–
I share a part.
Only through grace bestowed
May I be true;
Here, while alone with Thee,
My strength renew.

1) What are the special blessings and benefits of public prayer? What are the special blessings and benefits of private prayer?

2) What suggestions would you make to a believer to make his/her private prayer more consistent and meaningful?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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