Bang in the middle of what is traditionally known as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, we find Christ pressing His disciples to be counter-cultural and cultivate unusual “secrecy” in three specific areas of their relationship with God.
The Sermon on the Mount is a series of teachings that Christ directed and delivered to His own disciples relating to righteous living and practice spanning Matthew chapters five to seven. At the heart of this Sermon in Matthew chapter six, the Lord deals with three bog standard disciplines which represent an absolute given for every disciple of Christ. These are the spiritual disciplines of Giving, Prayer and Fasting.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not even think of asking or leave any room for doubt whether these disciplines should be present in the life of His disciples or not. It was universally accepted that they would be, no questions asked. All He said was “when you give to the needy” (6:2), “when you pray” (6:5), “when you fast” (6:16), clearly implying that this was the absolute norm, the bare minimum, the basic disciplines of a disciple of Christ. There was no chance or probability of these three not being practised by His disciples – the only issue was how they should be practised.
This is the starting point for a disciple of Jesus Christ. These are disciplines which are not only expected to be present but established in the life of every disciple of Jesus Christ. The Lord speaks of them as practices and not one off occurrences. Out of the three practices however, prayer is the one that Christ gives the most attention and detailed exposition to. Obviously something you do not mess with.
You must understand and appreciate the value and importance of all three disciplines but in particular that of your personal or secret life of prayer with the Father. As a Jesus follower, you must establish, guard against and maintain a personal prayer life of your own, a place and platform where you cultivate and maintain your personal relationship with God made possible at a huge cost to Him.
Yet for some of us a meaningful secret prayer life is non-existent. If that is the case with you, it is an anomaly friend and requires your immediate action to correct it. You need to make a decision to take your walk with the Lord seriously. He has. Hence the reason why He made a new and living way for you to access His presence through Christ’s death on the cross tearing away the curtain in the sanctuary leading directly into the Father’s presence. Think on that – unrestricted access made possible for you and me at the cost of the death of His One and Only Son – Hebrews 10:19 – 20:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,
Christ promised that what we present and communicate to the Father in our secret place of communion is guaranteed to illicit a response from Him. Our secret (personal) prayer life represents the place where God meets us at our point of deepest need – where He gets to deal with our insecurities and struggles, weaknesses and failings – the place where Christ’s abundant life is continually channelled to us.
These are the absolute basics and getting the basics right is fundamental to the success of any endeavour or venture in life. It is those who do the basics right that enjoy success in life – especially long-term success.
If you do not practise the basics, the absolute given, the norm; if you are not to be found in that secret place where God can inject life and more of it into you, progress to the next stage is not going to be possible at all. You must get the basics right. We can talk about it as much as we like but where the basics are absent progress to the next level is pretty much non-existent too.
Address the basics.
Ensure you have a set time of connecting with God daily (through prayer and reflective reading of His word) that you zealously guard against, continually maintain, develop, and further invest in in various ways. If you already have, get even more deeply entrenched in it.
Do not overlook the fact that these are basic disciplines the Lord expects us all to engage in and do so in secret, i.e. on our own. Christ specifically prohibits the public practice of these three disciplines with an ulterior motive of getting noticed and commended by others (Matthew 6:4, 6 and 18). As His disciples these are to represent secret elements to our lives that are definitely not intended for public consumption.
In the next blog we shall have a look at the pattern and format of prayer The Lord Jesus Christ gave to His disciples.