Yet, the question is, if prayer is so wonderful, why do we struggle with it so much? The answer is simple. We will never enter the secret place of prayer with our head leading the way because prayer is an activity of the heart.
Prayer is entering into a loving relationship with the Creator of the Universe—not a performance before Him.
Psalm 91:1 tells us, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” What a great promise! We all thrill at the thought of abiding under the shadow of the Almighty God. The word shadow means shade and defense. In other words, God will be our shade, and He will defend us. When the children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness, God placed a cloud over them every day to protect them from the heat. At night the cloud became a fire to light their way in the dark. As long as they followed God through the cloud and the fire, they were protected from the adverse elements and given light to show the path ahead.
As we abide under the shadow of the Almighty, we also will find everything we need. God will be our protection, our provision, and a light to show us the way as we navigate through life. Notice, God doesn’t provide these things for us, He is the provision we need. Yet we abide under His shadow only as we dwell in the secret place of the Most High.
If we’re honest with ourselves, how many of us actually live in the experience of the promises of Psalm 91? It’s important to understand that for every promise in the Bible, there is something we must do. If we don’t meet the prerequisite of God’s promise to us, the promise will be nullified. The condition to the promises of Psalm 91 is to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. It’s my belief that every Christian wants to dwell there, but many don’t know exactly what the secret place is or how to access it.
The Secret Place
In my own journey, I began to realize there was a reason Jesus called time with God the secret place, and I was determined to learn it. He was teaching his disciples about prayer in Matthew 6:6 and gave them these instructions: “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.”
The word secret there means hidden, private, letting us know this is something between our heart and God’s. He is in the secret, hidden, private place and is waiting for us there. The world, as well as many Christians, cannot find the secret place because they’re trying to relate to God with their minds, laboring intensively in the strength of their own efforts. He cannot be found that way. God and the things of the Spirit are only revealed to those who worship Him (and pray) in Spirit and in truth. ( John 4:24)
The apostle Paul tells us something similar in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” In other words, we can only discern spiritual things with our spirits. Those same things seem foolish to our natural minds. But, oh, the rewards we will see (openly) in every area of our life as we spend time in the secret place!
Accessing the Secret Place
Many of us miss the awesome beauty that awaits us in prayer because we approach praying the same way we approach everything else…with the natural part of us. The natural, fleshly part of us includes our mind, body, emotions, and our five senses. Although each of these enables us to live in the natural world, they have no ability to enable us to contact God and the things of the spirit.
Our body and our five senses are not who we are. Paul calls our body an earthly tent, which is a temporary dwelling. Just as we need a space suit to exist in space, we need an earth suit to exist here on earth. When we die we leave our earth suit behind. We are eternal spirit beings who live forever. Only our spirits have the ability to contact and know God and to live and function in the world of the spirit. We do this by prayer. We live in a body created in the image of God for continual fellowship with Him. Prayer is a spiritual activity. Recognizing that we do not pray as part of a physical experience but a spiritual one is the first secret of prayer. It’s a heart thing.
Have you ever entered into prayer and felt like you weren’t accomplishing anything? Don’t stop praying! To your natural mind it may seem unfruitful, but your spirit is being extremely fruitful in prayer. Never judge the effectiveness of your prayer time by what you think or feel took place. Satan will use the dry times in prayer to tempt you to quit praying, but it is in those dry times that God is working in ways you cannot see at the moment. Keep showing up every day in prayer, and you will find that on the other side of the dry period there will be the sweetest breakthrough in prayer. God wants to teach you the beauty of not being led by feelings but knowing by faith that He is listening intently to every word you say to Him. In my dry times, He has often surprised me mid-prayer or mid-sentence with an overwhelming sense of His love and presence that is like an oasis in the desert and water to my thirsty soul.
This is part of what it means to pray by faith. Pray when you feel nothing. Pray when God doesn’t seem to be speaking. Pray when it seems the heavens are brass. It may seem this way to you in your head but know in your heart that you are indeed accomplishing much. Jesus told us that those who pray in secret or privately, God will reward openly. That isn’t a maybe promise but a sure one. Notice that Jesus didn’t say He would reward us if we feellike our prayers are answered! He rewards all who believe that what they ask in prayer is heard whether they feel like it or not. Those are the ones He will answer openly.
Let Your Heart Lead
We use our bodies and our minds to enter in to the secret place, yet they can only take us so far. For example, we have to tell our bodies to get up and go to our time and place of prayer, and they take us there. We use our physical eyes to read the Scriptures, and we use our minds to meditate on them. Our body and mind are definitely engaged, but only our spirits fellowship with God.
He created us originally for our spirits to be the king, our minds to be the servant, and our bodies to be the slave. In other words, our minds and bodies help us in prayer, but they are not supposed to take the lead. Even when our minds are meditating on the Word of God, we must ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and speak to our hearts the things He wants us to know and understand.
Our spirits are supposed to lead the way by God’s own design. We are so accustomed to allowing our bodies, our feelings or our minds to take charge that it takes time and discipline to turn it around so in prayer our spirit can lead the way. The key is to ask the Holy Spirit to help us and then practice being sensitive to Him. This is how prayer changes from being need-based to being birthed from God’s heart to ours.
I’ve found when entering my prayer time, the best way to put my mind and body in its place so that my spirit can lead is to begin with heartfelt worship and quiet meditation on the goodness and wonder of God. In those moments, my words are thoughtful and few. The more my mouth is engaged, the more my mind will take control. One of the great lessons I learned in praying is to resist the need to talk all the time.
When I first began to pray, I talked non-stop. I said everything I could think to say and then wondered why I didn’t feel any closer to God. I thought this was what prayer was supposed to be. I had always heard prayer described as “talking to God,” and yet, when I did all the talking my heart wasn’t engaged in a real conversation. What a glorious day it was when I learned to let the Holy Spirit lead me in prayer, so I could learn when to talk, when to listen, when to worship, and when to simply sit in His Presence.
God has made a way for us to understand His mysteries by placing His Spirit in us. When we enter the secret place of His presence, the curtain is pulled back, and we can peer into the nature and ways of God. We can never in this life know Him in his fullness, but, oh, what a privilege it is to be face to face in prayer with this infinite God who created us! Just one glimpse of His goodness changes our lives forever! The glory of God awaits us, and the Holy Spirit longs to reveal Him.
In prayer, the Holy Spirit has revealed the greatest things I’ve ever known. In my darkest hours, I’ve retreated into the secret place and heard God speak a word of encouragement that gave me the strength I needed to go on. Sometimes it was just him saying, “I am with you.” Yet because it was God revealing Himself to me as my constant companion and not just someone trying to pump me up, it infused me with spiritual strength.
At other times, I’ve been faced with a difficult decision, and it wasn’t clear with my natural wisdom what I should do. While praying in the secret place, a strong sense of peace would come that I should move in a certain direction. The Holy Spirit knew things I could not know with my own wisdom, and the issue was resolved.
In John 16:13, Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” I’ve proven it over and over. What great joys and benefits the Holy Spirit brings to us through this wonderful activity called prayer!