By Will Graham
Prayer is the natural expression of faith. When a disciple of Jesus is filled with the Spirit of God, prayer becomes inevitable in his (her) life. An authentically spiritual life is a prayer-filled life.
As we all know, prayer is both a public and private affair. But today I only want to hone in upon the latter and ask: what is secret prayer?
The problem with writing an article about secret prayer is that my words can never do justice to the experience of intimacy with God itself. I’m all for books on prayer and listening to sermons on prayer; but the practice of prayer can only be learned when one lives upon his (her) knees. What I mean is that no one can know what secret prayer is all about until one has been in the secret place with God.
Secret prayer is only possible when hunger for God overpowers our soul. When hungry, we draw near to our kitchen. When longing for God, we take steps towards the Almighty. This is the birthplace of intimacy with the Lord: hunger, thirst, desire and longing. This aching within – placed there by the precious Holy Spirit – has the purpose of leading us deeper into the knowledge of the Most High.
So often, however, passion for God is neglected due to other cravings that cloud our spiritual vision. For some, it is the allure of sin’s cheap pleasures. For others, it is the love of all things material. And for a final group, it is the busyness and multi-tasking involved in contemporary life. All these things start to take the place of this yearning for God so awake within and thus we forsake the presence of God.
To pray in secret means discipline. We are well conscious of a thousand other things that call for our attention before we get down to seeking the Lord. It seems as if our mind floods with things we have to do. Why does this always happen when prayer time comes? It is the mind of the flesh urging us elsewhere. “Forsake the Land of Prayer today for there are so many affairs to which you must attend!” In these moments we must wage a good warfare and get down low before our heavenly Captain.
Even in prayer itself, many times other thoughts come creeping into our heads fighting for our attention. Again, we must resist these intrusions in the name of the Lord and keep our minds fixed on Him. As a dog chews through a bone until it reaches the marrow within, so too we must wrestle and do battle before the paradise of the reality of God shines upon our spirits.
In these moments of communion with the Lord, everything becomes bliss. Our burdened shoulders become free; our hearts are at peace; and our lips confess: “It is well, it is well with my soul”. This is what we were made for. This is our beginning. This is our end. It is God and God Himself.
It doesn’t take much effort to see how many of God’s saints throughout the years have found strength under the shadow of the Almighty. Abraham, Moses and David on the one hand. Peter, Paul and John on the other. How they triumphed in prayer and marched out of their prayer closets anointed with fresh boldness and courage to face the world in the name of Christ!
Every revival in church history tells the same story. The Protestant Reformation came into being with an Augustinian monk hidden in prayer. His name was Martin Luther. The great revivals of the eighteenth century under John Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards walked hand-in-hand with soul hot prayer. The same can be said of the great Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street at the beginning of the twentieth century. Secret prayer abounded as God’s Spirit dealt powerfully with God-thirsty hearts.
Since it is not enough to merely offer an academic treatise on secret prayer, I feel I must finish my reflection by asking you some pertinent questions. With all honesty and sincerity: do you seek God? Do you know what it is to be in the secret place of our Father? Have you sensed His heart? Have you heard the desires of His heart? Do you walk in the freshness of the Spirit?
There is so much more of God to be experienced, dear brothers and sisters. If only we let loose those things which enslave us to the world. Oh for secret prayer! Oh for a glimpse of His glory! Oh for a kiss from heaven!
Let’s pray. Let’s seek. Let’s wait upon the Lord.