But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:6, ESV)
Sometimes the exact words of Scripture, the turn of phrase that the writer used, can be startling. I often find some of the most beautiful truths in those texts, texts where the language suggests something strange and wonderful. Christ’s teaching on prayer is like that – especially here, where He tells us to go to the “secret” place.
I’d always thought of that practically – and that’s a good way to start. You should have a secret place, a place you meet with God and no one knows about it. He’s getting at our ancient sin there – to use our godliness or piety to try to impress folks. We are so tempted by that crime that He tells us to intentionally work against it. Sabotage your self righteousness! Do something for Him that no one sees, no one knows, and no one can be impressed by! No prayer posts here! God rewards that sort of invisible worship. Develop the habit of the “secret room” where you go to meet with God.
But the turn of phrase still catches me off guard. Jesus actually says go in secret, because that’s where God is, as if to say, “this is a secret place, so you should expect God to be hanging out here.” That’s odd. We all learned the game “hide and seek” when we were kids. Apparently it’s a favorite pastime of our Father too and not just 4 year old children. It’s as if to say to us all “ready or not, I’m waiting here for you.” That’s an absurdly precious promise itself, but now some of the oddness of this idea starts to hit us.
In Deuteronomy 29:29 there’s a strange passage on secrets. Moses tells us “the secret things belong to God, but the revealed things belong to us.” There’s all sorts of stuff that’s been revealed by God, but there’s even more that He hasn’t told us: when we’re going to die, what’s going to happen to our business or career, and how our kids will make it. Take your pick – we just don’t know what God has secretly decided about our lives, our generation, and this world. These are the secrets and they “belong to Him.” He controls them so they’re His property, His business. But do you see it? It’s so amazing! Here in Matthew Jesus is inviting us right into God’s secret business. The God “who is in secret” is this Father! The invitation to “secret” prayer, with the “secret” God, is nothing less than asking for input on His “secret” works!
Mary learned this with her own body, the shepherds learned it worshiping in a barn, the disciples learned it running naked into the night, and we learn it whenever we look at the cross. God works in secret ways to reveal the surprise of His love and mercy! God works in secret to reverse what everyone else thinks will happen. His secrets are the defeat of man’s knowledge, cleverness, and power. His secrets bring new life out of death. The invitation to the secret room is nothing less than this: His personal invite into His joy and His plans and His decisions, to make His secrets ours. Go and pray today secretly. He’s there waiting. Praise Him!