When You Pray: A Study on Prayer From Kelly Minter, Jackie Hill Perry, Jen Wilkin, Jennifer Rothschild, Jada Edwards, and Kristi McLellandSampleGet the app
The Secret Place
by Kelly Minter
“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him."
Matthew 6:5-8 (CSB)
Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something is by first learning how not to do it. When my dad was teaching me how to drive in our family’s 4-cylinder, stick-shift minivan (the worst vehicle to cut your driving teeth on), he would say, or occasionally yell, things like, Don’t let your foot off the clutch too fast. Don’t roll back into the car behind you on an incline at a light. Don’t run yellow lights. Kelly, you’re stalling! I had a running list in the Whatever-You-Do-Don’t-Do-This category. Under much less stressful conditions, Jesus employed this helpful technique when it comes to prayer.
In first-century Jewish culture, the Jews prayed three times a day—in the morning, around mid-afternoon, and before bed. Some of the religious leaders timed their arrival to sacred places like the temple or crowded places like the street corners so people could take notice of their spiritual dedication. Their motive had more to do with being applauded by people than meeting with God. Jesus said, Don’t pray like this.
I can’t help but wonder if Jesus were giving this message today, would He take an opposite approach by encouraging us to pray in front of people more than we do? Not only are most of us not guilty of praying on street corners, but we also may not want to thank God for our meal in a restaurant or ask a neighbor if we can stop to pray for her in a challenging season for fear of what people might think. Whether we pray to be noticed or don’t pray so we aren’t noticed, both have to do with fear of people instead of a reverence for God.
When we pray to commune with the living God, Jesus said our Father sees us in secret. Whereas the religious hypocrites prayed loudly to be seen by people, the praying woman who closes the door in her home does so to be seen by God. Our heavenly Father doesn’t feed off flashy and showy displays of religiosity; rather, He delights to show up in the quiet places for those seeking authentic communion with Him. What an invitation of intimacy prayer is.
We don’t have to pray like the religious hypocrites because what we long for in prayer isn’t receiving accolades from people but a relationship with God. Second, we don’t have to pray like the irreligious pagans who carried on in hopes of having their needs met because our God is different. He is loving, personal, all-knowing, and delights to meet with us in the secret place. And lastly, prayer is filled with reward. Our Father delights to give good things to His children. So, whether He rewards us with tangible gifts or shares with us more of His presence, we are blessed when we pray.
When You Pray Today
What a perfect time to find a “secret place” so you can pray to your heavenly Father. Remember, He not only sees in secret but is in secret with you. Find that quiet place. Whether it’s a favored chair, a park you like to walk in, or your actual closet, He longs to meet with you.
About this Plan
Join six beloved Bible teachers who will help you study prayers in the Bible that can inspire your own. You’ll learn God welcomes your praise and lament, your thanksgiving and intercession. Above all, you’ll notice there...
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