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There always seems to be some sort of news of a scandal or shameful practices concerning professing Christians. Somewhere a pastor or professing Christian’s secret life of rampant sin gets revealed. As a result, we all (rightly) lose our collective breaths and our stomaches turn.

Then questions come. Why? How did this happen?

I remember hearing John MacArthur say,

“Nobody just falls out of a tree. They climb up in it, move around a bit, and then fall out.”

His point is obvious: this doesn’t happen overnight.

As a pastor who wants to be diligent in these things, I’ve observed something of a spiritual axiom. Where a secret life is present, a secret prayer life is absent.

In other words, (as I believe someone else has said) you go bad in private before you go bad in public. A person cannot be regularly pouring out his heart in praise, confession and petition to the God of heaven with a ton of dirt from his secret life under his fingernails. In fact, in every case of pastoral counseling when something surprising drops I ask, “How long have you been negligent in prayer?” The answer always corresponds with the sin.

This is very instructive to me. Even if I ‘feel’ like I’m doing good I need regular appointments in the closet of prayer. In fact, it is probably those times of particular blessing that believers are most susceptible to falling out of the tree. I most often bump my head on something when I am happily engaged in some type of thought. If I am not being personally alert and bending my heart in prayer then I am probably bounding ahead unaware of trouble. Prayer makes the heart ready to see sin by making it hate it. This is because prayer syncs up the believer’s mind with the will of God. It bends us low so that we may hear and heed God’s Word.

There a probably a million ways in which you could talk through how to prevent having a secret life of sin, but right near the top would be to have a secret life of prayer.

(a book I’ve enjoyed on the topic of secret prayer is, The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre. I highly recommend it)

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8 thoughts on “A Secret Life of Prayer Will Prevent a Secret Life of Sin”

  1. Ron C says:

    Thanks Erik for this rich reminder! I have found that when I’m pursuing a fervent and frequent prayer life, I am most effective in fostering personal holiness and promoting, more than anything, a desire for God’s glory to be put on display. May we do this in His great mercy and to the praise of His glory and grace.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Thanks for the comment…great point.

  2. Linda says:

    That reminds me of a message I heard about Psalm 1. We start out walking with sinners–in step with them but moving. Then we stand with them–spend more time engaging with them. Then we sit with them–giving them our full attention. And it reminds me of Casting Crowns’ song Slow Fade–people never crumble in a day. A diligent prayer life keeps our feet on the right path.

  3. Juan says:

    Very good reminder Erik. I’ve been trying to live holy for God, but am really lacking in my prayer life. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I prayed. God forgive me. This really encouraged me to get back to prayer.

  4. Important post. Thanks for sharing, Erik. Reminds me of the J.C. Ryle quote in A Call to Prayer: “You may be very sure men fall in private long before they fall in public. They are backsliders on their knees long before they backslide openly in the eyes of the world.”

  5. Diane says:

    Thank you for this. What an encouragement and a blessing! I’d lost my joy in praying the last few days and you’ve steered my heart right again.

  6. Uju says:

    Great piece. Timely reminder.
    Thank you.

  7. Raina ovie says:

    Thank you for the clear truthful message and a timely reminder. My soul is blessed by this and I have already shared it.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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