The value of a private prayer life

By Shauna Pilgreen

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites …. Pray then like this ….” (Matthew 6:5,9)

We lead in the limelight. We might speak from the stage. Maybe you’ve got a thousand followers on Instagram. Women in our churches want to spend time with us. We coordinate programs. We stand by our pastor-husband. We seek to raise godly children. We lead at the office, in the classroom, or on the team.

But what about our secret life? Particularly, our secret prayer life? What’s done in secret informs what’s done in public. I want to follow a leader who has a strong private prayer life, don’t you?

As discreet as it may be, we must pray alone. In our line of work, we might possibly pray more in public, with groups, with another, than we do in private. You and I know there’s a sweetness and a richness that comes from meeting in the throne room with our heavenly Father that spills out to every person we touch and in every area in which we lead. And bonus! He rewards this! I think it’s why He says later on in His sermon on the mount that when we seek Him first, all other things will be added to us.

As leaders seeking to know Christ, how comforting it is that He invites us to be ourselves. It’s the original version of who He made. He wants to hear us, not a fancy, spiritual version of us.

Start with the basics in the Lord’s Prayer and expand as you grow in your relationship with Him. Consider the following elements from these verses as a foundation for your prayer time.

Adore Him.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Make much about Him when you first open your heart to pray. Don’t pull out the list until this is done. Start with praise. This will inform how you intercede and petition.

Want what He wants.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We align our ways with His, not vice versa. We pray according to the Scripture, which is His heartbeat. Ask for His will, His purpose to be triumphant over your day, your family, your church, your ministry, your work, your town, our nation, our world.

Ask Him to meet needs.

“Give us this day our daily bread…” How interesting! His wants are greater than our needs, so agree with Him for what He wants, yet ask for what you need. We think our needs are great, but they pale in comparison to God’s wants. Throughout Scripture, God has heard from heaven and answered His children’s requests. Ask, for you are His kid, and He gives good gifts.

Hold out both hands.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” One hand represents receiving your forgiveness. The other hand represents giving their forgiveness. Visualize that it’s both — not receiving from Him and withholding it from others, but receiving and extending. When you pray in private, literally hold out your hands. Receive God’s forgiveness while looking at one hand. Then forgive those who have hurt you.

Desire protection from the enemy, not a safety net.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” It’s not praying for God to keep us safe and secure and from all harm, but that He will protect us from anything that could derail us from God. There’s not a corner of this earth where Satan doesn’t roam. And Jesus already has told us that we would have trouble, but to take heart because He has overcome it. As leaders, we pray that we keep our eyes on Him despite opposition, persecution, evil schemes, and on days when it seems Satan is winning. We ask not for force fields, but the spiritual armor of God, so we might face all that Satan will throw at us.

Nations and churches and communities of the past that overcame and conquered injustices and evil were led by private prayer warriors. We will do far more on this earth for His kingdom when we get on our knees in the secret. In the quiet. Let’s go there today.

Published February 8, 2018

Shauna Pilgreen

Shauna is married to Ben Pilgreen, pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco, CA. They have busy 3 boys and are in process of adopting a precious girl from India. Shauna loves exploring her city, engaging in her community, and encouraging women. Join her on her blog at where she shares how their family lives out the Gospel in the place they call home.