This fine morning prayer requests and prayer closets are weighing on my mind. You see, having been in ministry for a number of years and having been praying for all of those years, I had never found the need to go into a room and close the door to talk to God, but this past weekend - God arranged a wake-up call.
(The following is from my notes on "The Secret of First" a sermon message delivered to Gateway church on January 12-13, 2008 by Robert Morris. Blue highlighted material is taken directly from notes taken during the sermon and are my paraphrase of the material presented.)
My pastor, Robert Morris, was speaking on this very subject when he brought to our attention Psalm 91:4-7. Now Psalm 91 - I know... I pray often when I feel weak and frail to be kept in the shelter of His wings. But, here is what Pastor Robert brought to my attention: "the secret place" in Psalm 91:1 (NKJV) now in the NIV it is the "shelter" but this secret place got my attention... where is the secret place? So, he took us over to Matthew 6:5-13 when the disciples are asking Jesus to teach them to pray.
"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
"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 the secret place will reward you openly.
"And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think they will be heard for their many words.
"Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." (Matthew 6:5-7 NKJV, emphasis mine)
The secret place is found behind "a closed door." Not necessarily a room or officially a door persay, but a specific time and place that you set aside daily to be alone with God in prayer, a time of uninterrupted fellowship, communication and worship.
Pastor Robert then proceeded to outline the elements of the Lord's prayer in this way. Matthew 6:9 are elements of praise as well as the latter part of verse 13. He said that Jesus taught the disciples to begin and end their prayers with PRAISE. The first element of prayer as Jesus taught it is praise, for who He is, what He has done and what He is about to do. Praise Him in all circumstances.
The next element he identified is PERMISSION. Jesus taught the disciples to ask for God's Will. Ask God for His opinion of what you are doing, asking for and the outcome, don't just pray according to your own will and desires, but ask God for permission to receive what you seek. (verses 10)
The third element he outlined was PROVISION. Jesus taught the disciples to ask for a daily provision. Even though you bought groceries on Friday, pray today for God to make the provision for the daily needs of your family: food, finances, health care, automobile maintenance, etc. Whatever you have need of basic to extraordinary, ask God to provide it daily. (verse 11)
The fourth element he outlined was PEACE. There can be no peace without forgiveness. If we do not request and receive forgiveness from God and do not extend forgiveness to others, we will never truly realize peace in our own lives. 1 John 1:9 says we need to daily confess our sins not because they need to be forgiven, but because they have already been forgiven and our soul (our mind, will and emotions) needs to acknowledge and receive that forgiveness as we work out our salvation. By doing so our souls are cleansed of the spot and blemish of sin and made clean and whole once more.
The final element outlined is PROTECTION. Asking God for protection. We are constantly subject to spiritual warfare aswirl around us in the Spiritual Realm, our lives are deeply affected by it. We need to be asking God for protection and restoration in these areas daily.
Then Pastor Robert shared this little nugget, "The best thing about the secret place is who you get to share it with." He did not discourage the practice of praying while you are doing housework or sitting on the front porch or in your car or any other type of continual prayer - he exhorted us to add this to our prayer life and find the wonderful pleasure of spending time uninterrupted with God.
Having heard this message on Saturday evening I started my Sunday morning with a secret place appointment...
I rose fairly early and pulled out my prayer journal (a book sized spiral notebook with 100 pages in it) and opened it to the first fresh page. I numbered out six sections leaving half a page to write in each: Praise, Permission, Provision, Peace, Protection and Praise. I filled in each section with prayerful consideration and then evaluated every room in my house. The kitchen pantry, a closet but with the current fasting conditions in my spiritual life I thought it better to not tempt fate, plus we keep our garbage in there. Then I considered the laundry room, but uninterrupted time in there is almost never found. I returned to our master bedroom and considered our closet, briefly, but my mind wold wonder to what I would wear for the day... not a good idea. I returned to the master bathroom content to kneel on the floor in front of the bathtub with my beautiful picture of Jesus carrying a weary soul across the beach when I noticed (for lack of a better term) our toilet closet. You know the little room that houses the commode in your bathroom with a door separating it from the rest of the bathroom. I went in and closed the lid settling down. I closed the door and realized this is the perfect place to pray. No one likely to bother me and I can kneel in the floor or sit or stand, whatever I need to do to pray. So I began. The first day was delightful, though my husband noticed I was missing and came to check on me calling out over my praying in the Spirit out loud - "Are You Okay?" He must not have been too concerned because he returned to his game of "Bejeweled" without an answer.
I have spent this week at various times in the day writing out my prayers and then submitting them to God in my new found prayer closet. Yesterday after a particularly wonderful time of fellowship with the Lord I sat silently listening. I then asked, "God, show me how you see me?"
Now to give you a hint of background. I am on a journey of complete testing for 40 days and ever since I began on January 1st all I have heard is "This is a time of preparation and dedication."
Well, as I lay my head against the wall and drank in deep, soulful breaths of the Holy Spirit - this is what I saw:
A schoolhouse that has been burned to the ground, and is being rebuilt brick by brick on a stronger foundation, even though it is branded and tested by fire. It is being built into a house of knowledge, learning and understanding, a place where people will find refuge from a broken, fallen existence and our Savior glorified.
It was the delight of my day. Confirmation of my calling to teach - and I have the call to write already confirmed. I am so taken by the Lord right now I can hardly stand it. He is the delight of my life and my days. He is all I need and all I want and more. He is my Lord, my God, my Savior and my Friend. He is everything to me.
The secret place is very special, if you don't already have one - seek it out today!
Blessings in Christ, beloved.