There is no secret to powerful prayers. The secret to prayer is prayer in secret ….
Jewish tradition in Jesus’ day had reduced prayer down to a shadow of its intended purpose. Instead of being an avenue for meaningful, spontaneous, sincere communication with God, prayer had largely become a religious form without a function. Repetitive and ritualistic. A means of impressing others with public demonstrations of fervor and superiority ….
And to hear Jesus tell it, they loved it. “They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others” (Matthew 6:5).
Notice the phrase “they love to stand.” The original language of the New Testament contained two different verbs that could be interpreted “to stand” and the word Jesus used in this verse is the kind of standing that is tall, firm, bold, and confident. These people loved standing there, knowing that others were watching and listening and being blown away by how well they prayed. Hear that? They loved it!
Now if that’s what we want, if that’s what we love, we can still do it that way. As it’s coming around our turn to pray, we can plan ahead how to impress people with our spiritual artistry and turns of phrase. When we’re praying at home, we can feed off the self-righteous piety of knowing someone may spot us in the den or kitchen, or through our open window, sitting there with our Bible open, obviously with superior commitment to our devotional time. We can love being known for how impressive we are at prayer, even if it indicates a level of prayer life we don’t actually have ….
However, we cannot pray this way and expect God to listen to it or answer. As Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:5). If it’s all for show, it’s all for nothing. Nothing more. Nothing else …..
The secret to prayer is prayer in secret; where you “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray in groups, pray with your spouse, or ever do any kind of praying with others in public. It just simply means that if your public prayer exceeds your private prayer, you’re missing the point of what prayer is all about. You’re abusing its privileges and forsaking its possibilities. Praying with others is of little real value unless it’s overflowing from the praying that you do in secret; unless it’s coming from what happens in private places that only you and God know about. And if whatever you’re praying for or praying about, doesn’t move you to tears — then why would it move God to act?
The prayer closet allows no showing off. The prayer closet is proof of your sincerity. No one who’s trying to draw attention to themselves goes into their room, closes the door, and gets down on their knees in prayer. No one fakes it in secret. In secret, we can be raw, naked and exposed, and intensely deep and intimate before God. There is no self-righteousness to be gained by anyone’s approval, except that of our Father, which is immensely pleasing to Him to be approached in this manner.
That’s why praying by yourself is the foundation of all prayer. The true test for the validity of your spiritual life is what takes place where no other human sees. The genuineness and effectiveness of what you do in public will never rise any higher than the genuineness and effectiveness of what you do when no one’s watching. This is known as integrity; doing what is right when no one is watching ….
Just as important to note is that praying should not be a “just before meals” or in “times of trouble” occasion. If you pray only when you are in trouble — you’re in trouble. Daniel prayed 3 times a day (Daniel 6:10) and God delivered him from the lion’s den and certain death. It is written in Psalms, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:164-165).
Did you catch that ? Seven times a day!! That would be truly as Paul taught us; that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and rejoice in everything; and I doubt any, even I, would stumble nearly as much if I prayed and praised more and ‘Facebooked’ or ‘Googled’ far less ….
In closing; remember, even Jesus sought out secret places and went away to solitary places to pray. You have this day to perform at your best and rise above. Think about this: what are your greatest obstacles to private, in-secret prayer? What hinders you from praying more?
I challenge you to the kind of praying that tells you it’s coming from a deep well of private prayer life. I would encourage you to purposely set aside some time today, if only for a few minutes, to get down into a secret place, and approach the Lord in humility and tears; pour out in secret all those things weighing you down. And watch as you change direction in your prayer life; you will begin to see miraculous changes take place in your public life.
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your Word.” (Psalm 119:147)
Let us pray ~
Father God, I come to You today in this private place, wanting nothing more than just to be with You in Your presence; humbled that You would want to be with me. You are enough Lord. Bowing here in Your presence is greater by far than standing and being seen in the presence of others. Please forgive me, my Lord, for the pride and pretense that too often takes hold within me, disguising this truth from my mind and heart. Draw me back here again and again where I can love on You and learn from You in secret. Use me today Lord for Your glory, and show me and lead me to those whom I need to pray for. I pray in Jesus name, Amen ….