“But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 CEB
When I was a kid I used to love building forts. I would build them out of chairs and blankets, I would build them out of snow, I would build them in trees, and I would even dig them out of the ground. I liked building forts because they created a place where I could go and no one else. The only way others were invited was if I invited them. You could say in a sense that my forts were my secret place. I believe that everyone has a need for a place where they can go and feel comfortable and quiet. It may not always be a place to be alone, but it is your place. This is, in part, what made places like Starbucks and Panera so popular. In fact, Panera Bread states part of their mission is “Food served in a warm, welcoming environment, by people who care.” For many years now I have done some of my sermon preparation a lot of weeks at either Starbucks or Panera. I have seen this principle in action. We all need a place to feel welcomed, especially a secret place.
When Jesus is asked to teach his disciples to pray he gives them this advice. “But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place.” Jesus instructed them to get apart from everything and get with God. In essence, Jesus wanted them to build a prayer fort. There is something to be said for removing all other distractions and being alone with God. But that isn’t even what Jesus seems to be concerned about. Jesus seems to be concerned for the condition of their heart. Jesus teaches them that prayer is not a show “so that people will see” when you pray. Prayer is not about the amount of words, the quality of your words, or the sound of your words. Prayer is about connecting to God. Prayer is about being with God in that secret place where you can tell God what is on your heart and God can tell you what is on God’s own heart. This work of connecting with God is best done in that secret place.
So where is your secret place? Is it a room in your house? Do you have a place at work where you can get away and be in your prayer fort? For many years my dad traveled across the state of Florida as part of his work. He always told me that his car was his prayer closet (I just made sure he prayed with his eyes open). For me I have had many prayer forts over the years. The chapel at my home church is a very special place of prayer for me. There has always been a room in every house I go for prayer. At St. Andrew’s it is the prayer room. I sneak off to the prayer room regularly to get alone with God in that secret place. Wherever your secret place, prayer closet, or prayer fort is the important thing is to visit it regularly to connect with God. We all need that secret place where God is present with us and we connect to God in prayer.
God wants us all to stay deeply connected through prayer. God desires to hear our hearts and share God’s wisdom and peace with us. This Sunday we will continue the message series entitled One Faithful Promise. The message will help us consider the importance of connecting to God in prayer. I look forward to sharing this message with you Sunday. God is at work at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!