verse XXVII – When you pray.
In the secret place.
In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, as he is ministering in the Holy Place before the morning sacrifice at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Gabriel announces, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard. And your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Lk. 1:13).
Zechariah had prayed for a child. He and his wife Elizabeth were childless in their marriage – a sign in Jewish culture of that day of that something was wrong with the couple, they had some secret sin which caused blessing to be withheld.
Zechariah’s prayer would have been from his heart before the Lord – in a secret place; a prayer that most certainly extended past their natural means of childbearing. The angel appeared. The message arrived. He was informed that his prayer had been heard while he was alone in the Holy Place – but the Lord rewarded him, and Elizabeth, openly through the miraculous birth of John, later known as the Baptist.
Why is prayer done?
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Amen, I tell you, they have their reward in full! But you, when you pray, go into your inner room; and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you” (Matt. 6:5-6).
As considered previously, Yeshua/Jesus is teaching us that prayer is to be done for the glory of the Lord Himself. It is not to cause people to admire us, be in awe of us, or for us to gain a reputation of godliness or holiness. If you notice, Yeshua, in the Sermon on the Mount, often taught by referencing the example of those Pharisees who were hypocritical in their observance and religious practice. The hypocrite loves to pray, but their reward is not from God, but men.
What does Yeshua mean when he says, “go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father”? Is prayer only to be done in the privacy of our own home? While I am a believer in the inerrancy of the Bible and its literal meaning, we still must carefully consider and seek to understand what the Lord is saying to us through it.
Think of these words, “go into your room.” Much of the world’s population, then as now, live in very crowded, small one room houses. I have visited pastors around the world who live with their wife, and in many cases, several children, in a space as small as 8’ x 8’. Are they able to go into a private room? What about Yeshua, He was not a homeowner, as He said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
In the Gospel’s, we frequently find Yeshua going out to the lonely places to pray; those places where He would not be disturbed – often in the middle of the night. Why is this more desirable? After all, we are directed to pray together, for each other, and we are commanded to assemble; are we not to pray during those times? Of course we are, but we need intimacy.
I am one who believes in speaking to the Lord at all times, as often as I am able. In my case, as I drive, when I’m working outside, as I hike or run, as I study and write, and as I wait. Yet, there is nothing like being able quiet myself and speak to my Father in Heaven: away from it all. My favorite place to do this is in nature. What are the benefits?
- Privacy in prayer: this is a personal audience with the Lord God.
- Immediacy with God: I often find that in these private times of prayer that the Lord speaks to my heart the answers that I need, or that He gives me clarity of thought on an issue.
- Intimacy: which allows for development of relationship.
- Intercession: the opportunity to pray and intercede on behalf of others before the Lord.
- Presence: hidden from the world, we are able to more readily discern His Presence surrounding us.
Messiah is using a room, a quiet out of the way place, as an example of the privacy, intimacy, and intention we should have in prayer. Shut out the interruptions. Be away from prying eyes. Speak to your Father in the secret place, from the secret place. More often than not, we will find Him there waiting for our arrival. He is not looking at how we are doing it, but seeing in the secret place of the heart, why we are doing it. The essence of prayer isn’t to speak many words, or to lift up a voice in tongues, but to seek the Father. He asks us to see His face, to seek intimacy with Him; and our heart should draw us into that wondrous reality.
Psalm 91:1-2 says so beautifully, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, Who abides under the shadow of the Almighty, He is saying of the Lord, ‘My refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!’” King David wrote, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
It takes time and faith to develop the awareness and surety of faith that the Lord is ever with us – this is the fruit of those quiet times of speaking to our Father. Messiah gives us this command, and asks that we spend time with Him. Such a privilege.
Zechariah asked in the secret place, his prayer was affirmed there, and then he was rewarded openly to the glory of the Lord. He was not looking for reward. He was not looking for the respect of men. He was seeking his Father.
The hypocrites reward is fame. The disciple of Messiah does not lose his reward because it is not given by men, with their ever changing sensibilities; but by the Father who does not change.
Prayer is trusting in the Father’s care. It is trusting in His love. It is believing His Word. Ultimately, it is learning to say to the Sovereign Lord, “Thy will be done.” When we can honestly, from the secret place of the heart, pray “thy will be done” we will see what appears miraculous, but in reality is the presence of the Father in heaven.
What reward are you looking for?
Are you looking for the reward, acclaim, respect, or privilege of men? Or the everlasting reward of the Father? Our answer depends on who or what we are attached to.
Shalom. Be well.