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Get Your Bets Down and Pass the Popcorn

I am sometimes dumbfounded at the number of Christians who feel the need to post it on facebook whenever they give a gift or pray a prayer or serve someone in need. Don’t do that. The deepest secrets of your heart should be the secret acts of kindness, mercy, forgiveness, service and intercession that occur in the inner chamber. These are things you do for others that are intended to be known only by God, in order that all praise and honor may go to Him. This is the highest service you can offer. Your most powerful prayer is also the most secretive. Even the smallest groups bring out the public, role-playing side of you, and tend to deflect the focus of your prayers away from reaching the heart of God, toward making sure the group approves.

So much of what we do “for the church” is done because we want to gain recognition from others. Few of us know how to stand alone spiritually. We depend on the recognition of others for our motivation and our reward. We love standing in front of an audience, getting “likes” for our every thought, building a platform and getting lots of fans.

My wife, Makki, and I have resided for a number of years in a poor and depressed community where God called us to do a particular work of ministry. One of the first and most enduring impressions we got from our neighbors is that many of them have a tendency to live their lives as theatre. If there is a fight, it's going to be held in the main ring, as the participants burst out of their homes and go at it against each other on the front porch or out on the street. It’s something of a shared community experience, and is greatly enjoyed by most. Get your bets down and pass the popcorn.

Many people see the church as their theatre, just as a lot of our neighbors see their front porch, but crumble if ever they are called to stand alone “out there.” These folks attend church in order to impress the pastor, or people from their own social circle, or others from the social circle they would like to break into. They want to be recognized, get their strokes, make their performances, get their applause, climb their ladder, or whatever else they get out of it. In my experience the thing we used to call special music has mostly been eliminated from our worship. I’m glad for it. It is tiresome and distracting watching people perform with the obvious attitude, “Just wait’ll they hear this.” Many who pray in public pray with that same attitude, or with a false humility so contrived as to be, well, obvious. Whose prayer is going to break heaven loose today? Get your bets down and pass the popcorn.

Thankfully, there is no stage in the inner chamber (see Matthew 6:6). There is no mask for you to put on, no theatrical makeup. There is no playacting, no pretending. There are no facades, no stage sets in the inner chamber. You have no choice but to be solitary with God, absolutely real, in this place where you are fully known. Once you get over the initially troubling aspects of being so vulnerable, you will come to love it. Once you begin to see your secret prayers answered openly, though only you and God are the wiser, your inner chamber life will catapult into an amazing new dimension. You’ll never want to step onto the stage again.

Please cut me some slack on this. I know what grace is, but here’s a fact: Your public personna is how everyone else grades you. You earn these grades based on how well you do when you’re on stage. God gives His “grade” based upon who you are in private. Your coursework for His grade is done in the secret place, the inner chamber.

We cannot pray in order to receive recognition from anyone but God. It isn’t allowed. No matter what you think you might be doing, if you’re praying for recognition, or praying what I call a "performance prayer," it isn’t really prayer after all. It isn’t necessary for anyone to know about your secret labor for the Master except for the Master Himself, because it is a labor of intimate love and special communion. It is labor that He respects you for doing and joyfully receives from you, once you have learned to stand alone with Him in the inner chamber.

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