If you’ve hung around church long enough, you have probably heard of “the quiet place,” “prayer closet,” “devotional time,” and so on. Pragmatically speaking, this means to set time aside to practice your spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading Scripture, meditating, etc. But if you are a practicing Christian, you know it’s much deeper than that. It’s not just an external discipline but an internal place we go. It’s a place where we access and connect with the presence of God.
There are similar practices in the world and within other religions that also practice these types of things but they are all rooted in something different. The Christian practice is rooted in the understanding that God’s temple is now our bodies. His presence, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and our committed confession of that, now dwells inside of us.
This place is available to all Christians but not everyone goes there. To be honest, many Christians fall into the “religion” of it all. They become satisfied with weekly Bible plans on the Youversion app and daily 5-minute prayers on the way to work. I’m not making fun of those things because they have their place but I’d like to submit that there is more.
This practice of the quiet place is seen throughout the Bible but the most impactful, in my mind, is when Jesus practices it. In the gospels, we often see Jesus going off to a secluded place where He connects with the Father. I’m sure He had scriptures He read and prayers that He said but it seemed deeper than that. We see Him connecting with God.
Jesus states multiple times in the gospels that He only does and says what the Father tells Him to do and say. That means that God was giving Jesus real time direction and commands — not just encouraging thoughts and a stamp of approval because of his prayer discipline.
In Matthew 6, the disciples (people who followed Jesus) finally asked him, “Lord, will you teach us how to pray?” Why did they ask Him that? The guys following him were good Jewish boys and knew all the same prayers Jesus did. Is it possible that there was something different about what Jesus prayed? It didn’t seem religious but authentic. They weren’t memorized, rehearsed prayers. They were filled with power from the relationship He had with God.
So, Jesus begins to teach them. He starts by giving them an example, “This is how you should pray,” ‘Our Father in heaven.’” Did you know this wasn’t a common practice until Jesus? You often heard ‘Lord,’ ‘God,’ or ‘Yahweh,’ but ‘Father’ wasn’t common. Jesus was letting His disciples know that this isn’t just some prescription on how to say a good prayer. He was showing them that prayer was supposed to be an intimate time with your Father.
He tells them not to pray like the pagans or Pharisees. Pagans repeat the same prayers and chants mindlessly. This was similar to today's practices of manifesting thoughts or incantations. This practice is often rooted in the same ideology as birthday wishes — in a selfish want and not in the hope to connect to the entity you're praying to. The Pharisees, who were religious leaders of the day, prayed out in front of everyone to look holy. They knew how to play the religious/church games to look as if they knew God. The truth is they were dead inside. At one point Jesus calls them “whitewashed tombs.' They look good on the outside but only death is on the inside.
My hope is that you would practice visiting the quiet place, prayer closet, or unseen place in the right way. My hope is that you would know how to internally access the presence of God and hear from Him. My hope is that your Christian practices would be real and fruitful, not just a moral obligations.
On Sunday, October 3, I will be kicking off our Koinonia’s Missions Month series called, “Unseen.” I will be talking about the “unseen place,” what it is, and how to access it. If you would like to know more about going further with God, I’d encourage you to join us.