(If you’re not much of a reader but are interested in this topic, this series has been condensed into a 43min sermon that I was privileged to share with my church family in Manchester earlier this year. Click here.)
If you’ve been keeping up with the series or you’ve had times in your life where you’ve attempted to live from the Secret Place, you’ve probably come up against some opposition. Maybe you’ve pushed through, maybe you’ve drawn back. As I’ve mentioned previously, as a Christian today it seems like standard practice to feel guilty about our prayer life (or lack thereof) while simultaneously doing nothing about it. Perhaps after a powerful sermon, a passionate church camp or (hopefully) reading a blog on the topic, we resolve to go deeper with God but more often than not, this is a short-lived venture. Why?
We are in a war and we have an enemy. But let’s ignore him for a little while.
As I shared when I wrote about Iceberg Christianity, we are called to live a life of depth with God that although it may not look too impressive on the surface, there is a forcefulness below as there is a weight in the Spirit that we acquire in the Secret Place. Take any of the great heroes of Church history and you will find they were aggressive in their value for and defence of the Secret Place! This is about more than a vibrant prayer life, but that is a vital part of it.
The Secret Place lifestyle is the attitude of a heart that is set to live before the eyes of the Audience of One, for His delight and glory. It is the lifestyle of submission laid out by Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 that holds as its highest desire, the smile of the Father who sees in secret.
James 4:7 is a verse that is often misquoted or should I say half-quoted. We love to emphasise that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us! It kinda makes us feel powerful and important! We declare it to our friends in trials, we stick it on our fridges and we post it on our facebook/twitter feeds. The first part of this verse is the real focus for us but we pass by it so easily. Let’s just look at the whole thing with a bit of context eh?
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:6-10 (ESV)
There’s been a new emphasis in the western Church on identity and the need for us to know who we are. We’ve emphasised how powerful we are, how significant we are in the purposes of God and how dangerous we are to the dominion of darkness. While all of this is true I think that over-emphasis here causes us to miss the first part of James 4:7. Submit yourselves to God. Colossians 1:28 tells us that it’s Christ in us that’s the hope of glory. Philippians 2 tells us to emulate Jesus’ attitude of humility in submitting Himself to the will of the Father despite His equality with Him. Our problem has been that in trying to walk in our power, significance and dangerousness out in the world, we’ve forgotten to submit ourselves before God to receive grace to resist the devil. The two don’t work independently of each other.
At least, not for long…
I think that the degree to which we submit to God, determines the degree to which the devil flees from us!
Think back again to some of the amazing saints who’ve gone before us and left their mark on the world. The devil didn’t just flee from them but they seemed to chase him around with a big stick!! Injustice, disease and fear were forced out by their presence. Why were they so powerful? And where on earth did they get the stick from?! It certainly wasn’t from earth. They were submitted to God and had drawn near to Him. He responded. When they laid their hands on the sick, the weight of heaven crushed afflictions! When they stood against injustice, all of heaven stood with them! When they spoke the Lion of Judah roared! Check out the resource section below for some quotes, videos and sermons from giants in the faith to stir, encourage and challenge you!
As I said previously, we have an enemy. The devil knows the power that’s released when men and women of God submit themselves to the Father in the secret place (Acts 19:15) because he still bears the bruises and scars! This is why he works to keep us out of the Secret Place lifestyle. When we don’t realise we’re in a battle we assume that “prayer just isn’t for me” or we wear the “Guilty about my Prayer Life” t-shirt. Our natural, human inclinations can also be a hindrance to us and coupled with enemy tactics they can form excuses and barriers that work to either keep us out of the Secret Place (and even feel good about it) or to make us infrequent visitors on our own terms.
If you decide to do something about your prayer life, there are a few things that are very likely to happen, almost like clockwork. It’s likely that every distraction in the world will present itself before you in your mind. “Ooh but I still need to get that done” or “God loves me even if I don’t pray” or “I wonder if she’s replied to my text yet” or “I want to watch my favourite TV show or scroll meaninglessly through my news feed…all day” and the list goes on. It’s likely that you’ll feel unworthy. “You know what you did yesterday, God doesn’t want to talk to you” or “You’re too insignificant to pray, why would God even listen to you?” Any of those sound familiar? In your life it’s likely that everything will suddenly become busy. Things at work might go insane, the kids might get wild and your car might even just break down. You may even suddenly get sick.
If you forget that you’re in a battle you’ll simply let your priorities slip instead of submitting yourself to God and resisting the devil. Press on! Grab some friends and press forward together and cover each other in prayer!
Something else that is likely to happen is that we get puffed up with pride. When we get into a regular prayer routine and serve well in hiddenness, we can start getting self-righteous and begin looking down on others who struggle with prayer. We can start attaching names to ourselves e.g. Prayer Warrior, Intercessor or Watchman (all of which are great when God gives them to us) to make ourselves feel more publicly significant. We know that the devil is full of pride, personal ambition and self-promotion. That’s why he fell. Obviously he wants the same for us so the Secret Place is a strategic target. In this self-promotion we can begin to give in to the temptation to use our private relationship with God for the sake of public ministry. In the “Friendship with God” video in the resource section below, Bill Johnson gives some insight into why this could be disastrous for us.
Here is the final Round!
Helpful Resources Regarding Prayer and the Secret Place Lifestyle