As Worship Leaders, we are always in planning mode. Not only are we planning for the “services” or “gatherings” coming this weekend, we also have an eye toward how each service in the next few months will fit together. Personally, I plan so much so often that I can sometime neglect the most important service planning of them all. That service is the secret one Jesus talks about in Matthew 6:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
The secret to long-term, fruit bearing ministry is cultivation of alone time with God. There is not a system to learn, a course to take, or a book or blog to read (yes, even this one) that will contribute more to “marathon ministry” than intimate times of worship in solitude. A really smart person once challenged me to never let my public worship exceed my private worship. (Before you read on, look at that sentence again and let it sink in)
Needless to say, that phrase was a stunning blow. In a sense she was saying, “Stephen, don’t let what you do on the platform be the only time you do what you do on the platform.” After I took the knife out of my stomach, I began to try to put some action steps around my alone time and make my secret services look more like my public ones.
Here is a simple framework for making your secret service more meaningful:
Make it a meeting
Let it be the first meeting of your day. Scheduling your private worship time increases not only the probability of it being a daily occurrence; it also increases the probability that your steps will be ordered according to His plan. He is the King of Kings! The Boss! You are the servant. We are on HIS mission. The time set-aside at the first of the day for the highest duty and delight cannot be overstated here.
Make it private
“Prayer closets” can take on many forms. I’m a fan of earplugs and noise cancelling headphones. Something very cool happens when you deprive your ears from distraction. The argument can be made here that a coffee shop can be a very “alone place” if you’ve got your headphones in. I think it is a great idea, but l would advocate physical solitude as well. Make it a point to be seen only by God in a quiet place. You’ll be surprised how more free you will feel to integrate your physical posture into your worship. “Quiet times” aren’t always quiet. Have you sung a new song to the Lord in private lately? How about dance? How about lifted hands? How about being facedown? Its funny how easy it is to sing about such postures in public and neglect them in private. Go for it.
Make it personal
I am goofy when it comes to this point. I will proudly admit in public that I have a “blankie”. It’s a Texas A&M stadium blanket I use and its precious to me. (I said that last part like Gandalf) I’ve crawled under that thing for years during my private times of worship. I pack it first when I travel (I know). I’ve used it around a campfire, to cover my head from the rain, and to block the sun like a headscarf when I’m on a prayer walk (I look like Moses). All that to say, be free to make it shape you secret service creatively. We are given a formula for prayer with the “Lord’s Prayer.” We see Jesus seeking out the “solitary places” throughout his ministry. Both are crucial. But as I just mentioned above, your secret worship time can involve many different expressions. Get creative with where you sit or stand, with the songs you might sing, with the prayers you might pray. The Lord made you and I think He delights in our creative meetings with Him.
Stephen Smith (@stephenandstar) serves on the Leadership Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. He shepherds four teams within the church: Music, Multisite, Media, and Marketing. He spends the remainder of his time these days with his head in a book or dealing with an unruly yard. His passion is leading worship through song with his wife Star and leveraging their lives to see ministry multiplied in their home church and beyond.