Pastors, the strength of your ministry is going to be dependent on the strength of the secret place.
Everything in the Christian life is a by-product of prayer. Despite being the greatest preacher who ever walked on this earth, Jesus was never asked by his disciples to teach them to preach.
Neither did they ask Him to how perform miracles. But they did ask Him to teach them to pray because they saw Him prayer and they understood everything He did flowed out from His relationship with the Father.
If you think about it, everything in life stems from the agency of prayer – Faith is often conceived in prayer. Grace is received in prayer. God’s will is discerned in prayer. Courage is birthed in prayer.
#1 Establish a definite time to pray
Too many of us try to slot in some time during the day to pray; but that does not work. How do I know? I’ve been there! It just doesn’t work. You have to ring fence a certain part of the day and reserve it solely for God.
Rising up early is one of the most important disciplines that we must cultivate.
I made a commitment that I was going to get up at 4.45 am to pray each day and I have kept to this commitment every single day. It is one of the most important decisions I have ever made in my life. Once I got my prayer life right, everything started panning out in my life.
John Bunyan says “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” Martin Luther said, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day.”
Many pastors complain they don’t have time to pray. But they have time for entertainment. They have time for Netflix. They have time for outings. Listen pastor, if you are too busy to pray, then you are busier than God intended for you to be. “But I can’t afford time to pray”. No, you can’t afford not to pray. Don’t try and find time to pray. You have got to make time.
Manna was rained from heaven and available to be gathered before the sun rose.
If you value the Word of the Lord, start the day by seeking something fresh from Him. Exodus 16:4 “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.”
The whole issue of the manna was a test. Would the people obey His instructions by getting up early and collecting the portion they needed? It is the same with us. Will we get up first thing each morning to gather something fresh from heaven for that day?
The biblical pattern of separating time for prayer in the morning
Jesus must be the pattern for our prayer life. “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” (Mark 1:35) The Psalmist echoes the same thing. Psalms 5:3 says, “My voice you shall hear in the morning. In the morning I will direct it to you”.
#2 Keep your appointment even when you don’t feel like it
Often times, we think prayer is only effective if it rises from an eager heart. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The more you grow in prayer, the less dependent you will be on feelings and the more dependent you will be on faith. It is faith, not feelings, that is the measure of our effectiveness in prayer.
When Francis Frangipane first started his ministry, he would spend the first half of the morning in prayer, about 3 to 4 hours. Then, as the busyness of the ministry set in, he reduced prayer time to 2 hours and then to 1 hour.
One morning, a prophet in his Church called to say that he had a word for him. Francis waited with anticipation. The man dropped by his house and said, “Francis, the Lord says, He misses you.” I suspect God longs to meet us far more than we desire to meet Him.
Consistency is necessary if we want to come to a place of abiding.
The truth is most of us don’t live very consistent lifestyles. That’s where most of us struggle. The prophet Daniel set apart 3 different times in the day to pray. In other words, he didn’t just have one devotional period in the day. It says in Daniel 6:10 “… As was his custom since early days.”
Daniel had cultivated this intimate relationship with the Lord from his youth, and he developed such a keen prophetic sense because he paid the price.
King David was no different. In Psalm 55:16-21, David said, evening, morning and at noon I will pray. David cultivated this as a young man and right into his old age, he was still praising God all day long. (Read all the Psalms of his old age: Ps 71, Ps 37.)
#3 Find a suitable place to pray
There are some places where God is more present than others. I know God is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere at the same time, but there is something called the “manifest” presence of God where we begin to feel Him, hear His voice and perceive Him in a clear tangible way. There’s just something about a “meeting place” that is sacred to God.
Your closet is that place where you get to be alone with God in secret. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room (or your closet), and shut the door”. Find a suitable place where you won’t be disturbed. Once you find it, consecrate it and build an altar to the Lord.
#4 Don’t allow distractions into your prayer closet.
The moment you set your heart to seek God, it’s like all hell breaks loose. You will face opposition and distractions because it is the one thing the devil doesn’t want you to do.
He doesn’t mind how many committees you sit on, or how many meetings you attend, just as long as you don’t spend time in prayer. And he will do everything in his power to stop you.
Guard and protect your priestly life.
Your prayer time has to be the most important time in the day for you and it must be non-negotiable. Wesleyan minister, Samuel Chadwick said, “When alone with God, be alone with Him”. How we treat Him and how we honour Him is how He will treat and honour us.
The Anglican priest and author, William Inge says, “It is quite natural and inevitable that if we spend an average of 16 hours per day thinking about the affairs of the world and only 5 minutes in thinking about God, this world will seem 200 times more real to us than God”.
Everything that you are living for is to prepare you for that day when we eventually meet Him. We all want to see that smile on His Face and hear those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.
Content adapted from Ps Yang Tuck Yoong’s sermon and sharings.