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)