In the Secret Place

In the Secret Place

Three Ways to Super-Charge Your Prayer Life

by Leslie Ludy | September 1, 2010

“He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”

– John Bunyan

Last year I read the autobiography of Hudson Taylor, the heroic missionary to China whom our son is named after. At the age of 17, Hudson was living a mediocre Christian life and continually being pulled toward sin. He could feel the call of God upon his soul, but he seemed unable to respond the way he desired to. Many nights were spent in despair, wondering if he would ever find real victory. Finally, he decided to pray. He went into his room, locked his door, fell upon his knees, and cried out to God from the depths of his being.

And the King of the universe heard him. He answered in a more powerful way than Hudson ever could have imagined. A few days later he wrote these words to his sister:

Bless the Lord, O my soul! And all that is within me shout His praise! Glory to God, my dear Amelia. Christ has said, “seek and ye shall find,” and praise His name, He has revealed Himself to me in an overflowing manner. He has cleansed me from all sin, from all my idols. He has given me a new heart. Glory, glory, glory to His ever blessed Name! I cannot write for joy (from Hudson Taylor in Early Years by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, p. 79).

The freedom and triumph that God gave Hudson Taylor was not just a fleeting “mountaintop experience.” Rather, he was completely and radically set free – never to look back. The rest of Hudsonʼs life was a glorious display of a supernaturally enabled existence. He sailed to a godless, hostile land, led countless thousands into the kingdom of God, and became the sole inspiration for an entire generation of Christians to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Though he lived 200 years ago, his legacy is still cherished and his example still followed by millions.

Stories like Hudsonʼs are extremely unusual in todayʼs world. Most modern Christians I have talked to have the opposite experience when it comes to seeking God. Instead of radically answered prayer, they get only silence from heaven. Instead of victory and triumph in their daily life, they get only defeat and discouragement. And instead of a supernaturally enabled life that inspires millions, they struggle to even inspire their own friends and family members. But once upon a time, the Christian life meant something different than a blasé daily struggle. In the “olden days,” stories like Hudson Taylorʼs werenʼt quite so rare. Following Christ actually meant exceeding joy, peace that passes all understanding, and power to trounce upon our enemies.

How does such victory happen? Through powerful, persistent praying. Not just mumbling a few half-hearted requests toward heaven and giving up if we donʼt receive an answer; but crying out to God from the depths of our soul, meeting Him in the secret place and not letting go until the breakthrough comes.

Such prayer takes an intense level of commitment, focus, and energy which our flesh resists. But if we are willing to press through all of the mental and physical protests and meet God in the secret place of persistent prayer, everything changes. Soon prayer becomes life and breath to us – and we canʼt imagine how we ever survived without it.

Over the past five years, Eric and I have learned far more about prayer than we ever would have thought possible – and we know we have only just begun. I would like to share three practical things that have completely transformed our prayer life. I believe that if you begin to put these things into practice, you will see power and victory in your life like never before.

1. Pray Boldly and Specifically

God asks us to have the kind of faith that asks boldly for specific things. Instead of vague, general prayers that donʼt demand faith, we must begin “putting it all on the line” and take the risk of laying our precise needs before our King. Charles Spurgeon said, “There is a general kind of praying which fails for lack of precision. It is as if a regiment of soldiers should all fire off their guns anywhere. Possibly somebody would be killed, but the majority of the enemy would be missed.”

Many of us are afraid to ask specific things of God, worrying that we will become disillusioned and shaken in our faith if He fails to answer. But if we are abiding in Him, living according to His Word, and yielded to His Spirit, we can be confident that the burdens He places upon our hearts are His desires – and He delights to give good gifts to His children!

“So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt...if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matt. 21:21-22).

“Jesus said to him…“all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

2. Pray Without Ceasing

Paul exhorts us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing. Most Christians refuse to take that statement literally, saying, “Well, obviously, he didnʼt really mean that we need to pray twenty-four hours a day! How unrealistic!”

But all through Scripture, God bestows great honor upon those who seek Him day and night. At the time of Christʼs birth, there was a woman named Anna who lived in the temple. She “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37). When Mary and Joseph brought Christ to the temple as a baby, she instantly knew He was the Son of God, and spoke of Him to all who awaited the redemption of Israel.

Did Anna have a “special call” upon her life to prayer? Or is that kind of continual, fervent prayer the call of every set-apart woman of God? The New Testament describes the characteristics of a “virtuous widow” who is qualified to receive help from believers. The description of this woman seems to parallel the miraculous, poured-out life portrayed by the Proverbs 31 woman. She does not live for her own pleasure, but is well reported for good works, bringing up children, lodging strangers, washing the saintsʼ feet, relieving the afflicted, and diligently following every good work (see 1 Tim. 5:10). How does she accomplish all of this? She “trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (1 Tim. 5:5). She lives a supernatural existence, accomplishing incredible things without stress and exhaustion, because she makes prayer the foundation of her life.

When our spiritual life is thriving, when prayer is the foundation of our existence – every other area of our life begins to thrive as a result. Not only will we have victory in our personal life, we will be strong in order to pour out on behalf of others, like the virtuous women in 1 Timothy 5 and in Proverbs 31. In Matthew 6:33, Christ says that when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all the things we need will be supernaturally added to us.

When God first challenged Eric and I to fight for spiritual fortification, we realized that we needed to make fervent prayer the highest priority of our day. We had always made prayer a part of our life, but now we felt challenged to make our life all about prayer. We began to pray intensely for two or three hours every morning, and at least an hour in the evening. Some nights, we wrestled in prayer for five, six, or even seven hours until three or four in the morning. And many weeks we devoted an entire day out of the week to fasting and importunate prayer.

We prayed while we were driving down the road. We prayed while we were getting ready in the morning. We prayed when our kids woke up crying in the middle of the night. We prayed when we were making dinner. We prayed when we were taking walks or riding our bikes. We prayed as we were drifting off to sleep at night. We prayed before we even got out of bed in the morning. We prayed while we were writing our books. We prayed with everyone who came into our home. We visited friends and neighbors in need and prayed for them. We met together with our church community and prayed regularly. More and more, we began to learn what it means to “pray without ceasing.” And we began to experience the “miracle life” God had called us to.

3. Pray with an Undivided Heart

Hollywood and pop culture glorify violence, perversion, and evil. They glamorize sin and debauchery. They splash sin across a huge silver screen as an entire culture eagerly drinks in the twisted messages. And yet most of us participate in these things without even a second thought, giving our time, money, and focus to an industry that is the opposite of all we believe. Sure, some of us are careful about the kind of movies we watch. But even the “milder” ones, for the most part, glorify sin and selfishness. In fact, there are only a handful of media productions (movies, magazines, TV shows, etc.) that truly bring honor to the name of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 1:1-2 says: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

By clamoring after the worldʼs entertainment and imbibing the images of Hollywood, we are walking in the counsel of the ungodly. By plopping down in a movie theater every week, we are literally sitting in the seat of the scornful (and watching the very same garbage as the rest of the world).

By filling our minds and hearts with movies and TV, we are not delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating upon it day and night. Rather, we are meditating on the sights, sounds, and messages of pop culture day and night. Too often we look to entertainment to bring the rest, refreshment, and pleasure that is supposed to be found in our relationship with Christ. And then we try to pray or meditate upon Godʼs Word, but our minds are distracted by scenes from a movie or TV show and we have to labor to think upon heavenly things.

If we want to pray prayers that move heaven, we must seek our King with an undivided heart. We cannot love the world and love Him at the same time. Scripture says that if we are caught up in the worldʼs enticements, we make ourselves the enemies of God (see James 4:4).

It may seem daunting to walk away from the attractions of pop culture. But when you seek your King with an undivided heart, you will discover that in His presence is the fullness of joy, and in His right hand are pleasures forevermore (see Psalm 16:11).

A powerful prayer life is yours for the taking. Your King is waiting to meet you in the secret place. And all the issues and fears and struggles you are facing right now will be solved when He becomes your all in all and prayer becomes the centerpiece of your existence.*

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