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The Two Main Purposes of PrayerJuly 3, 2023
Many believers desire to develop a thriving prayer life but do not know the practical steps to make that happen. Below is an excerpt from Living From the Secret Place that outlines three keys for growing in personal devotion to God in the secret place:
As we set out to discover some keys for growing in the secret place, let’s look at our theme passage again:
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. (Matthew 6:6)
Notice first that Jesus expected His followers to pray. He did not say, “if you pray” but “when you pray.” He did not so much focus His teaching on motivating believers to pray but on having the right heart posture and motives when they did. He also gave some practical instruction that we will cover in the following sections.
I often teach on three important keys for growing in the secret place. Our times with God must be intentional, focused, and consistent. Let’s break down these three keys.
1. Intentional Pursuit
Growing in the secret place requires an intentional pursuit. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room.” This speaks of a deliberate decision and a purposeful action. Like Jesus modeled, we should set aside the time and find the place to be alone with God. This will not happen by accident. If we do not intentionally make the time for prayer, we most likely will not do it. Since God is always available, it is easy to think that we can just pray whenever we feel like it or have some free time. But this approach is too flippant. The problem is, our schedules can easily get rearranged, responsibilities and unplanned situations come up, and that free time never seems to come. Not only that, but the world, the flesh, and the devil are all fighting against us getting into God’s presence. This is why intentionality and discipline are necessary for us to grow in our personal devotion to God.
I would strongly urge you to have a specific time set aside in your day for nothing else but being with God in the secret place. The fact is, we don’t have time to pray, we make time to pray. Schedule your time with God and stick with it. If you have to wake up earlier, so be it. If you have to forgo other activities, so be it. If you have to set aside work, so be it. If you have to be inaccessible to others for a time, so be it. This is the type of deliberate action required to grow in the secret place. Again, schedule your time with God and stick with it!
My personal recommendation is to have time with the Lord first thing in the morning. I find that there is something significant about giving God the first fruits of my time and starting the day with Him. But if other times of the day work better for you, then go with that. What is important is that you are intentional about devoting time to the Lord in secret. Having a set time with God like this is not legalism but a spiritual discipline that creates the context for relationship to grow. This is where many believers struggle in their personal devotion: they simply don’t schedule the time or don’t follow through with the schedule. In order for us to grow in the secret place, we must be intentional.
2. Focused Time
Growing in the secret place requires an intentional pursuit, but it also requires focused time. Jesus said to go into your room and shut your door. This speaks to me of shutting out distractions in order to have quality time with the Lord. Distractions can be both external and internal. External distractions could be responsibilities, tasks, people, or activities. It could be pressing work, phone calls and messages, social media, or a plethora of other outward draws. Internal distractions could be things that are weighing on our hearts, wandering thoughts, or other inward blockages.
The key here is to have time when we can give our undivided attention to the Lord. Don’t allow external situations to enter into the secret pace—shut your door! Reign in wandering thoughts and keep your focus on God. If there are things weighing on your heart, lift them up to the Lord and lay them at His feet before you move deeper into your prayer time. Cast your cares upon Him (see 1 Peter 5:7). There can obviously be some exceptions to these principles. For example, if you are praying early in the morning and your child starts screaming from their room, you can certainly pause your time to tend to your child and make sure everything is okay. We’re not talking about legalism here, but we should make focused time the goal.
I have heard some say that they don’t have a set, focused time with God, because they talk to Him and pray throughout the day. Talking to God throughout the day is wonderful, and we should learn to cultivate this into our prayer life. But nothing can take the place of dedicated time alone with God in the secret place. Jesus practiced and taught focused times of prayer, and we would be wise to follow His example and instruction. Find the time and place where you can have quality time with God. Shut out distractions and make yourself unavailable to others during that time. He is worth it!
3. Consistent Practice
The third key for growing in the secret place is that we must make personal devotion to the Lord a consistent practice. The Bible says that Jesus “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16). The fact that He withdrew speaks of being intentional and focused. The fact that it was often shows that it was not occasional but frequent.
Like Jesus, we should make prayer a regular practice. Be ruthless about spending time with the Lord. Revolve your schedule around your secret place time, and do whatever you have to do to get into His presence. Being consistent is important in any area of growth. It is not the ones who rush to the gym for their New Year’s resolutions who end up getting healthy and fit but the ones who steadily exercise and eat right over the long haul. The same is true in our spiritual growth and life of personal devotion. Consistency over time will produce abundant fruit.
If we make a daily practice of reading the Bible and spending time in the presence of God, we will see steady growth in our walk with the Lord. God truly is “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). It takes diligence, focus, and discipline. But the reward far outweighs any price we have to pay. And remember, discipline is not the goal in itself. The relationship is the goal. Discipline is simply a means for creating space for the relationship to flourish.
If we will make knowing God our highest pursuit, then personal devotion will be an outflow of that desire. As we hunger for the reality of genuine relationship with God, we will be drawn to the secret place of His presence.
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Time alone with God was never intended to be a boring duty or empty ritual. It was meant to be a passionate pursuit of God that leads to encountering His presence and knowing Him more.
Living from the Secret Place is a call to personal devotion. With rich scriptural truths, personal examples, and practical teaching, this book will equip you to grow in the most important thing you can do—spend time alone with God!