Soaking in the Secret Place
THE BIG IDEA:
Prayer is more than just going to God with your wish list. It’s about having intimate fellowship with Jesus where He communicates to us the loving heart of our heavenly Father.
“Let Jesus love you. It’s so much simpler than we thought. It’s time to be transformed by His love so that there is no fear in you. Be wrecked for everything but His presence. Be so utterly abandoned in His love.” (Heidi Baker, Always Enough).
One of the major themes in Acts is prayer. This is the very first thing that the church did together, after Jesus ascended to Heaven: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14). When the church was birthed on the day of Pentecost, Luke tells us that they “continued steadfastly… in prayers.” (Acts 2:42). The leaders in the church demonstrated that this was their primary responsibility when they said, “we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4). In Acts chapter ten, we see the story of a man who prayed.
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” (Acts 10:1-6).
Sometimes when people pray, they wonder whether or not it makes any difference. They ask questions like, “Does God answer prayer?” Cornelius was a man who regularly prayed to God, and an angel of the Lord told him that his prayers had not gone unnoticed by God. What an encouraging truth this is! One of my favorite Scriptures is Micah 7:7: “Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.” It is unfortunate that many people have turned that statement around to read, “Will my God hear me?” Do not doubt the truth of God’s eternal Word. He is a faithful, prayer answering God.
In obedience to the angel’s instructions, Cornelius sent two of his household servants and one of his soldiers to Joppa to find Peter.
“The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate” (Acts 10:9-17).
There are many lessons that can be drawn out of this story, but the one I want to focus on is the importance of personal prayer. As a part of his Christian life, Peter regularly went up to the housetop to pray. We know that Peter believed in the power of prayer, because he taught us to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” (1 Peter 5:7, nlt). He also taught us to “remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites when he judges. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as foreigners here on earth.” (1 Peter 1:17, nlt).
When we talk about prayer, an important distinction must be made here. There are many people who say their prayers, but they never pray. They never communicate or have fellowship with the Lord. They might read their prayers from their favorite prayer book, but never actually pray. There’s more to praying than just saying your prayers. The early church knew how to pray. The church itself was birthed in ten solid God-seeking days of prayer.
Peter knew prayer was important, for we see him heading to the housetop to pray. He didn’t go there to prepare a sermon for church or seek God’s blessing to be upon his evangelistic endeavors. He wasn’t crying out to God because some crisis had popped up in his life. Peter knew that spending time with Jesus in the secret place of prayer was of the utmost importance in his life. Peter remembered when Jesus had called him: “Jesus settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word.” (Mark 3:14, msg). The first call of the disciples was to simply be with Jesus. This is our highest calling. After spending time with Him, Jesus sent them out to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and change the world.
Peter went up to the rooftop to spend time with Jesus in prayer. Because of his heart cry to know Jesus more, because he was spending time with Jesus in the secret place of prayer, God showed up.
We need to get alone in our prayer closets until we’re not alone anymore. What I mean is that we lock ourselves away and pray, “Jesus, I’m grabbing a hold of You, and I’m not letting go unless you bless me! I don’t want to just say my prayers, but I want to encounter You. I want to meet with You today.”
Because Peter had taken time out of his day to be with Jesus, the Lord showed up and started speaking to him, giving him wisdom, direction and vision for his life. Too many people walk around without any sense of purpose for their lives, wondering what they’re here for. If they would just take the time to get alone with Jesus, and ask Him, “Who are you, Lord, and what do you want me to do?” everything would change.
You have a higher calling, purpose and destiny in God. There is something great He wants you to do. When you get alone with Jesus in the secret place of prayer, He will begin to show those plans to you. There are so many wonderful promises in the Bible that confirm this:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8).
Because Peter was praying, God gave him a fantastic vision. This vision is significant because it opened the door for Peter to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, a turning point in the history of the church. If you are a Gentile – that is, a non-Jew – then this story is significant to you, because if it wasn’t for the transition that happened here, you and I would have never been saved. Thank God that Peter was a praying man who heard God’s voice.
As I prayed recently, the Holy Spirit directed me to a Scripture that says, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14). He told me that the church is mostly sleeping, because it’s not tapping into the power of God, the presence of God, and the love of God. The church is not being a force for good in the world today. He is saying, “It’s time to wake up!” The wake up call is to return to our first love, and focus on our personal relationship with Jesus.
How do we do that?
Praying in the Secret Place:
Jesus said, “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 secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6).
Jesus didn’t say if you pray, but rather when you pray. “Those who have determined in their hearts to develop a relationship with God will ultimately be driven to the place of prayer. There is no way around it.” (Wes and Stacey Campbell, Praying the Bible). There is a longing inside every one of us, drawing us to the place of prayer. There’s something like a magnet in our spirit that is longing to connect with our Creator. Only Jesus can satisfy the deep desires of your soul.
Why did Jesus tell us to go into our rooms and shut the door behind us? He is telling us to shut the door to all of the distractions in our lives. We need to turn off the cell phones, MP3 players, computer, internet, video games and television. We need to shut them down, and take the time to pray. Jesus told us that when our heavenly Father sees us praying in secret, He will reward us. That speaks of answered prayer. God wants to answer your prayers! However, we aren’t going to see miraculous breakthroughs and answers to our prayers when our prayer life is limited to spending 30 seconds praying in the morning, “God bless my day!” Don’t be surprised when you don’t catch the ear of God with those kinds of prayers. God doesn’t just want us coming to Him with our wish lists. He wants our heart. He wants our friendship.
The whole story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is about a loving God desiring to have a personal, intimate relationship with human beings. In the Garden of Eden, God’s first words to Adam and Eve after they sinned were, “Where are you?” In the final book of the Bible, Jesus’ words to a church are: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20). Christianity is about a personal relationship with the Lord.
Jesus is calling His disciples to meet with Him in the secret place. However, many Christians, even if they were motivated to have a deeper prayer relationship with the Lord, wouldn’t know where to start. Two minutes into their prayer time, after having gone through their prayer list, they start twiddling their thumbs, or say amen and move onto something else. If they could just catch a glimpse of the Father heart of God, I believe it would motivate them to pray more.
As a father, nothing thrills me more than when my children walk away from the computer or put their toys down and come and tell me how much they love me, or just give me a hug or a kiss. I love that! God is the same way. When we go to the Lord, not just when we need something, but because we love to be with Him, that thrills Him, too.
The Voice of the Lord:
Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27). He didn’t say, “My pastors, preachers and missionaries hear my voice.” He said, “My sheep hear my voice.” If you’re a child of God, then you’re one of His sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and all of His sheep can hear His voice. Christianity is not religion. It’s about a relationship with Jesus. You can’t have a relationship with someone who never talks to you.
We need to learn to listen, because the Lord loves to speak. We need to learn to hear God’s voice so we can have a relationship with Him. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them.” The first reason we need to learn to hear His voice is so that we can have a personal relationship with Jesus. The second reason is so that we can follow Him. How can we follow Jesus if we’re not hearing His voice? Following Jesus doesn’t just mean obeying the commandments in the Bible, although that’s part of it. Following Jesus also means following the leading of the Holy Spirit, and to do that, we need to learn to recognize His voice.
Soaking in the Secret Place:
If we want to go deeper in prayer, we need to learn how to soak in the secret place of His presence. I first learned about soaking from a missionary named Heidi Baker. She and her husband Rolland began Iris Ministries in 1980 and are currently serving the Lord as missionaries in Mozambique. I attended a Signs and Wonders conference where Heidi was speaking in 2000. I was forever wrecked for ordinary living after being inspired by her testimony and the testimony of another young fiery evangelist who spoke there.
When I talk about soaking, I am using an analogy to try to explain what happens in the secret place of prayer. Soaking by definition means to lie in and become saturated or permeated with water or some other liquid (dictionary.com). If you were to take a sponge and immerse it in a bowl of water, it would become totally saturated with that liquid. Imagine the cool refreshing experience of standing under a cascading waterfall. Soaking in the secret place means to go into our prayer closets with no other agenda than letting Jesus pour out His love. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5). God wants to saturate us with His love.
In the Bible, God’s presence is often described as water, floods, and rain. God has promised: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” (Isaiah 44:3). What does it mean to soak in the secret place? It means to cry out for the Lord to pour out His love upon us. It means getting hungry and thirsty and desperate for more of God in our lives. It means going into the secret place of prayer, lying down, and letting Him love on us.
“Lie down so that He can trust you with everyone. Then when you get up there is revival – when whole nations come to Him, falling on their faces. He changes us with one glance of His eyes, so that we are not afraid to be completely abandoned in His arms. Many want lots of power and anointing, but when you just lie down and let Him kill you, it’s a good thing. He wants to love you to death… All fruitfulness flows from intimacy… I’ve seen His face. One glance of His eyes and you’re wrecked forever… He’s calling out radical servant-lovers. He’s breathing His life into His sleeping Church. His lovers will carry His presence.” (Heidi Baker, Always Enough).
The concept of soaking in God’s presence is more commonly understood in terms of another word picture used by Jesus Himself – abiding in the vine. Jesus said:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5).
That word abide comes from a Greek word, meno, that means to remain, abide; to sojourn, tarry; not to depart; to continue to be present; to be held, kept, continually. Jesus is calling us to remain in Him, to not depart from the place of prayer, but to continually be present with Him by practicing His presence. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). This is what Heidi Baker was talking about when she said that fruitfulness flows from intimacy. As we spend time soaking in the secret place – abiding in Jesus in prayer – we become fruitful, and we receive answers to our prayers.
Samuel in the Secret Place:
There’s a great story in the Old Testament that illustrates the concept of soaking in the secret place.
“Then the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel…” (1 Samuel 3:1-4a).
Samuel was a young boy who heard God’s voice. In his generation, God’s Word was rare – there were no revelations or open visions. People weren’t hearing the Word of the Lord. But notice where Samuel was when God began to reveal Himself to him – he was lying down where the ark of God was. “It should seem he lay somewhere so near the holy place that he went to bed by that light, before any of the lamps in the branches of the candlestick went out (for the main lamp never went out), which probably was towards midnight. Until that time Samuel had been employing himself in some good exercise or other, reading and prayer, or perhaps cleaning or making ready the holy place; and then went softly to his bed. Then we may expect God’s gracious visits, when we are constant and diligent in our duty.” (Matthew Henry, Commentary of the Bible).
Samuel was near the ark of God was when the Lord revealed Himself to the young boy. The ark was a gold-covered acacia wood box that symbolized the presence of God for the Israelites. This tells us that Samuel was lying down in the presence of the Lord. He was soaking in the secret place of prayer. One of the most common places to hear the voice of God and to sense His presence is during prayer or worship. We “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4). What happened after Samuel heard the voice of the Lord?
“The Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!” So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down. Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. Then he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:4-10).
If we want to hear God’s voice, we need to ask Him to speak to us. Some people never hear God’s voice because they never invite Him to speak. Samuel prayed, “Speak, Lord!” We also need to put ourselves in a posture of obedience and say, “Your servant is listening,” which is to say, “Whatever you tell me to do Lord, I’ll do it.” When we do this, we can expect to hear the voice of the Lord, and go deeper in our relationship with Jesus.
- “Soaking in the Secret Place” is one of the chapters from my book: “Supernatural: Contending for Signs and Wonders Today.” Contact me today if you would like a free copy of the e-book version of this study in the Book of Acts!