We’ve already established that we must be a praying people and God’s house must be a house of prayer. We cannot place too much importance on this matter. The disciples saw all kinds of miracles, signs, and wonders. Healing and deliverance. They’d already been sent out in power and authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. After all that, one of the disciples comes to Jesus and says “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
Jesus’ answer is what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. What’s interesting here, and an often neglected detail of this passage, is that Jesus says that this prayer is to be done in secret! Now if we have likened the Lord’s Prayer to be the walls of our house, providing structure and parameters for prayer, then we’ll consider the “secret place” to be the roof of our house. The secret place is a private place of covering and protection as we will see in the following scripture passages.
In Matthew 6:6, notice Jesus’ teaching on the secret place comes before He teaches the Lord’s Prayer! He is actually prescribing the use of the Lord’s Prayer for your private prayer closet! We cannot miss this. Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer in the context of the secret place. Rather than a corporate recitation, the Lord’s Prayer is actually about your private prayer life. There’s certainly nothing wrong with praying it as a prayer in a crowd of people on a Sunday morning, but if that’s all we’re doing with it, then we’ve missed the whole point!
Jesus says that when we go into the place of prayer, that place can be shut off from the outside world (“shut your door”). It is a place of limited access that you have control over. We are supposed to shut ourselves in. This should tell us something about the way that God desires to meet with us personally and intimately. And as we will see in the Old Testament scriptures regarding the secret place, it is a place of covering and protection, hence our roof.
Let’s take a closer look at this crucial verse which precedes the Lord’s Prayer.
“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 NKJV
But When You Pray
You must pray. There isn’t an option for the believer. Jesus said “when,” not “if.” Prayer moves us into a place of specific, direct communication and communion with God. This also means that God desires to hear from us! And we must hear Him for ourselves.
Go Into Your Room
This is a place or space that is yours alone. It can be any physical location, but spiritually it is a space that you own and have access to that no one else does. It is a sacred space that functions just like any other room, to separate the inside from the outside.
And When You Have Shut Your Door
You must remove distractions. You must get away from the noise and all the other things that clamor for your attention. You are also restricting access – and this is what makes the secret place a place of intimacy. Not everyone can go there! When you shut the door, the only people who have access to this space are those on the inside. That’s you. And God.
Pray To Your Father Who Is In the Secret Place
Your Father is in the secret place! This is the access that Jesus purchased for us! God is present everywhere through His Holy Spirit, but there is special access to the Father in this place of prayer. This is not the corporate gathering. It’s not a public forum. This is a private place that God desires to be in with you. He sees you and knows you, and is aware of everything you need (see v. 7).
And Your Father Who Sees In Secret
The Father sees what you do and who you are in secret. Before Him, you are naked and exposed in every aspect of your nature (Hebrews 4:13). He knows every thought, feeling, and need you have. He knows every plan of your heart. You are seen and you are known. This should bring both great fear and comfort. The Father is so fully aware of what you need, and so fully desires to commune with you that through Jesus He has given you the opportunity to find Him in the secret place.
Will Reward You Openly
Reward here has to do with payment, as one would receive a wage for his work. Payment is earned and subsequently invested into something else. There is a relational exchange here between you and God wherein you develop trust for each other. Assignments are released. Identity is revealed. The result is the work of ministry that happens through your hands and feet. And ministry that is born in the secret place is in direct contrast to that of those who’ve already received their reward in public (see v. 5). God is more interested in private character than He is in public display.
Prayer in the secret place is more than just saying words, petitioning for needs, and receiving granted requests. It is developing relationship. If you want deep relationship with God, then you need to invest time with Him in the secret place. Public prayer will never suffice to build this kind of relationship with God.
Only participating in public prayer without a private prayer life will keep you stuck in the shallow end with God. There will not be reward because you have not cultivated trust. God says your reward is what you have received already. Jesus teaches through this verse and those that follow that prayer is to be God-centered and not man-centered.
The Secret Place in the Old Testament
Now let’s look at two Old Testament passages that deal with the secret place to understand it further.
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”Psalm 27:4-5 NKJV
In Psalm 27, David says that he is after one thing. That one thing is to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” For David, the house of the Lord is representative of God’s presence, as God resides with the Israelites in the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant is. Today, we have access to that presence freely through the blood of Jesus because the veil that separated us from God’s presence in the tabernacle was torn in two (see Hebrews 10:19-22).
So David desires to be in God’s presence, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire of Him. That sounds like prayer, and is perhaps the secret place that Jesus is referencing in Matthew 6. In verse 5, David says that God will hide him in the “secret place” of His tabernacle (do a quick word study here). Notice that the secret place of God’s tabernacle is also the place of God’s presence. God is there, and wants David there as well. This is why David set up the tabernacle to house the Ark of the Covenant (see 1 Chronicles 15 and 16).
Notice the “hiding” element here and let’s look at another verse, Psalm 91.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.””Psalm 91:1-2 NKJV
Here again is the same term “secret place” from Psalm 27:5. In Psalm 91, the person who dwells in the secret place is said to abide under the “shadow” of the Almighty. The shadow is a place of covering and safety. Sounds like the “hiding” David mentioned in Psalm 27:5. And that is the function of a refuge or a fortress – to hide someone, to keep them safe.
So the secret place is a place of hiddenness with the Lord. It is a safe place where the Father, who knows you fully, is there to meet with you, to respond to you, and to set you “high upon a rock.” There is a reward that comes from this place, and it is from the Father.
Establishing the Kingdom
This place of prayer and intimacy with God is not just for us, but for others as well. Others who would receive the kingdom of God through the work of our hands and feet. We are God’s representatives on the earth and the work of ministry must flow out of the secret place.
Jesus modeled this for us in His ministry. “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16).” He often sought places to pray and then moved in the Spirit powerfully as He healed and delivered many.
The secret place is the secret to moving in the power and presence of God.
Further, Jesus declared to us there was nothing He did that He didn’t see the Father doing, nor said what He didn’t hear the Father saying.
“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.'”John 5:19 NKJV
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.'”John 8:28 NKJV
Therefore, ministry is actually the carrying out of the will of the Father.
For Jesus, this is born out of relationship with the Father. While this may happen through our programs and processes, programs are not the kingdom because programs cannot provide nor operate based on relationship with God.
This is a major weakness in the Church. We have relied on programs and institutions to do ministry because we can build them in our own strength. The result of our reliance upon these programs is that we have often forsaken the relational aspect of ministry in seeking out the Father’s will through prayer. Programs are not necessarily bad, but when we allow them to take the place of intimate connection with the Father through the secret place, we’ve lost the understanding of what it means to do ministry. The will of the father enacted in peoples lives on earth, as it is in heaven is kingdom ministry.
Abiding in Jesus
For us as New Testament Christians, our only hope to effectively establish the Kingdom of God in the earth is to abide in Christ. We, like Jesus, must abide in the secret place if we are to be connected intimately with the Father and if we are going to have any effectiveness in ministry.
““I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”John 15:1, 5, 7-8 ESV
Consider Jesus’ teaching in John 15 on the vine and the branches. Let’s observe a few key components about the necessary outcome of this private prayer relationship with God.
Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The Father is the vinedresser. The Father is tending and caring for the vine, but there is an interesting sense of separation here. The Father is tending the entire vineyard, but we cannot function apart from the vine – we are simply the branches. This points to Jesus as a mediator between us and the Father. We don’t have relationship with the Father apart from Jesus. It also confirms Jesus as our sustenance, which we prayed for in the Lord’s Prayer (“give us this day our daily bread”).
The Father is looking for those who will bear fruit. The clear result of that fruit-bearing is the glory of the Father. Again, the emphasis is on establishing the Father’s will and kingdom on the Earth. Notice also that when our will aligns with the Father in prayer, our prayers are answered, and we have what we ask. Remember “thy will be done.”
What Are We Really After?
So the ultimate goal of this private prayer life and intimate relationship with God that we are after is the (re)establishment of the kingdom of God in the earth. This reminds me of the end of Ecclesiastes when the writer says “13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NKJV).“
A life lived in connection with the vine, as part of the whole vineyard, bearing fruit for the Father’s glory, begins with personal submission to a Holy God who knows and sees all that is done. It begins with a “yes” to His way and a “no” to our own. It begins in the secret place between you and God. Everything that matters will be present there. Everything that bears fruit will start there. Everything that is good and right before Him will be rewarded because you showed up to that place and said “yes.”
So today, go in your room, shut the door, and meet with your Father.
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I believe this “secret place” element of a personal prayer life is absolutely vital if you want to experience a personal revival. It won’t happen outside of developing an intimate relationship with God. If you want to join with others who are on the same journey, truly work to build your “house of worship” and experience real transformation, then come join us inside the Worship & Warfare Community! You’ll get community support, accountability, monthly course content, Live Q&A’s, and much more! Click here to learn more!