The secret to overcoming stress and anxiety from a huge life crisis or problem is to use hiding place prayer to escape to a physical or mental hiding place where you feel God’s protection and help.
Here is a list of things for which hiding place prayer works: overcoming mental, physical or emotional problems, overcoming chronic disease, overcoming divorce, overcoming a broken heart, overcoming the death of a loved one, overcoming family problems, overcoming money worries, overcoming fear or overcoming worry.
1. Pay attention to your unexpected emotional breaking points as a call to seek refuge in hiding place prayer
Small breaking points that happen unexpectedly during the day can indicate that you’re under too much stress and that you need to find a mental refuge and a prayer hiding place away from your problems. My unexpected breaking point came one day driving on the interstate on my way home from trying ot help my 82 year old father who had undergone an emergency operation that left him disabled. Dad now couldn’t walk, he could barely eat, he seemed like he had given up and he couldn’t live in his home alone any more. I was under terrible stress trying to manage his care.
Driving down the interstate that evening I saw a beautiful sunset and I burst out crying because my own life lately seemed so dismal in comparison. My life wasn’t beautiful at all. It felt so dark, so overwhelmed by the ominous presence of my father’s disease. I realized that although Dad was the sick one, his disease had taken over my life, too.
The kinds of breaking points you might experience that let you know that you are in need of hiding place prayer include:
– going to pieces over small normal irritations
– lying awake at night worrying
– being sad and even envious when you see someone doing a normal task that you can’t do right now because of a crisis
– feeling outraged and overwrought by a small injustices, mistakes or criticism
2. Find your personal Biblical prayer hiding place
Back home on the day after crying over the sunset I knew I needed God’s comfort and help, so I sat down in the den recliner and tried to make my mind concentrate enough to read a few words from the Bible. Then I came to this verse in the book of Mark, “Because of the crowd he (Jesus) told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.” (Mark 3:9,10 NIV) This verse captured my imagination because of the way my father’s disease seemed to be crowding out my life like the people crowding Jesus to be healed.
I closed my eyes and mediated on this passage, imagining myself getting into the boat with Jesus. I imagined just the two of us pushing off from the shore and launching out into the middle of the lake, leaving “Disease,” whom I pictured as a dirty beggar in rags, stranded back on the shore. I felt so relaxed that at some point I dozed off. I’m not sure if what followed next was a dream or if it was real. I can only report that I experience wonderful peace being out in the middle of the lake with Jesus as we interacted wordlessly with each other as we smiled and rowed.
Following this “in the boat with Jesus” prayer time based on Mark 3:9 I continued to use this mental picture as a means of hiding place prayer, especially when I was lying awake in bed feeling worried and overwhelmed by Dad’s problems. I would picture a waiting boat on the lakeside, then picture Jesus waiting there for me.
Here are some other Bible verses to use to help you mentally enter into the hiding place of prayer:
“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:114 NIV)
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 17:8 NIV)
“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5 NIV)
3. Pray from your prayer hiding place.
A number of years after I began my “in the boat with Jesus” hiding place prayers, I was talking with author Judy Reamer and she told me that another Bible verse drastically changed the way she prayed during crisis periods. Judy has had many crisis periods over the years, including financial stress, her husband’s battle with cancer, his eventual death and her widowhood. Then one day Judy encountered the following Bible verse in Psalm 32:7, “You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” ( NIV)
The Holy Spirit seemed to tell Judy that she was unable to find inner peace while praying because she was praying from the wrong place. Judy decided to embrace this Bible verse by imagining herself praying from a “hiding place” in God’s care. Beginning her prayer time by first thinking of herself in a mental hiding place in God’s loving presence where she was separated and sheltered from her problems helped Judy achieve a greater sense of security and peace as she prayed about her problems.
4. Find and use a real prayer hiding place
One dark morning before dawn I was out on my prayer walk feeling distressed and worried about the overwhelming problems of someone I loved. I was so distraught I really couldn’t even pray. I was walking on a busy road where cars rush by at 45 mph, one of the least private or meditative places on my whole prayer walk. Then I noticed a dark gap between the lower limbs of two magnolia trees on the other side of the sidewalk.
I suddenly remembered that on a trip to Israel a few months before our guide had stopped us in front of a fig tree in Nazareth. Apparently she had asked two young men from our group to hurry ahead of us and crawl under the deep shade of the low lying fig tree limbs. She told us, “Do you remember this Bible story when Jesus called Nathanael. “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” John 1:50 (NIV)
We looked under the fig tree and it was nearly impossible to see the young men under the fig tree! About all we could see were the soles of their shoes – and we couldn’t see them well until they wiggled them. Apparently fig trees are one of the few real hiding places in a land of rocks and hills with very little dense vegetation!
Standing there back home on the sidewalk looking at the magnolia trees I realized they were a lot like fig trees in the denseness of their foliage and their tendency to have branches that spread all the way to the ground. I impulsively ducked my head and stepped deep into the shadow of the magnolias and found myself virtually hidden from the cars on the busy street! As I stood there, the boughs made me feel like I was sheltered in a secret place with God, away from everyone and everything – sheltered, me and God there, together in a protective hiding place. The simple act of going into a real hiding place helped me step into a prayerful, peaceful state of mind. After that day it became a highlight of my morning prayer walk to duck into my magnolia tree hiding place when no one was looking.
I later found this interesting promise in the Bible that each of us can be sheltered in our own personal fig tree hiding places: “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.” (Micah 4:4 NIV)
Ask God to show you a personal prayer hiding place. Here are some examples:
– In a small clearing in the woods
– behind a boulder or a hedge or a row of corn
– somewhere private and enclosed in your house, like a closet or an attic.
– an empty church sanctuary or a prayer chapel
– a park bench or a porch swing
You can even find a hiding place in tiny, cramped places and houses full of relatives if you’re motivated enough. One woman told me that one hectic Christmas she went out to the garage and sat in the empty parked car to get away and pray. Another sat down in a rocking chair in a tiny cabin full of teenagers and put a blanket over her head for a moment of much needed “alone time” with God.
5. Recall a prayer hiding place
Once you have actually used and visited a real prayer hiding place you will have a vivid picture and an indelible feeling of God’s nearness to draw on in times of distress. You can use this stored memory to take yourself back to your prayer hiding place mentally when you are physically unable to escape from your present reality, such as when you are confined to a hospital bed or are sleeping in a chair next to a loved one in a hospital bed.
The Psalmists used this sort of remembered prayer hiding place often during exile and times of oppression. “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul: Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:4,5 NIV)
You can also use a physical reminder of your prayer hiding place. On a day when I was in intense prayer for one of my grown children I decided to wear a necklace I had purchased at the Armenian Catholic church on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. In the crypt of the church there is a rock with a slipper like imprint where tradition says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, encountered her beloved son carrying his cross to his crucifixion. That day as I prayed for my own son, I imagined myself in this real place of sanctuary in the quiet place of prayer in the crypt, feeling what Marry must have felt watching a loved one traveling the way of intense agony and suffering and not being able to help them.
This brought home the truth that it’s vitally important to frequent places of sanctuary, sit quietly, imprint the sights and smells in your memory, even take photos! That way when you’re in need of a prayer hiding place, you can journey back in your memory and non-verbally re-feel the reality of God’s presence.
6. Use a prayer hiding place of song.
While standing briefly in my magnolia tree prayer hiding place the words of hymns often came to my mind that speak of how God is our shelter in times of distress. Sometimes only two lines of a hymn would come to me such as “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.” (hymn by Augustus Toplady) After my prayer walk I researched this hymn and found that this short couplet alludes to Exodus 33:22 where God hides Moses in a crevice of a rock and covers him with his hand while His glory passes by in order to protect Moses from being destroyed by the dazzling presence of God.
Intrigued that music might be another type of prayer hiding place, I went back to the original passage Judy Reamer had shared with me about God as our hiding places it says in Psalm 32:7, “You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” ( NIV, emphasis added)
Other Bible verses back up the fact that a song can be a hiding place and a refuge:
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. (Psalm 5:11, NIV)
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 59:16 NIV)
Here are other hymns that have come to my mind in my prayer hiding place that you might use as a prayer hiding place:
– God Our Help in Ages Past. “Oh God our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast And our eternal home. Under the shadow of thy throne, Still may we dwell secure; Sufficient is thy arm alone And our defense is sure.” (Isaac Watts) I looked up this hymn online and a source says that this hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 90. Verse 1 says “Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” (NIV)
– Beneath the Cross of Jesus. “Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land; a home within the wilderness a rest upon the way, from the burning of the noontide heat and the burden of the day. (Elizabeth Clephane)
– God Will Take Care of You. “Be not dismayed whate’er betide; God will take care of you. Beneath His wings of love abide; God will take care of you. God will take care of you, Thro’ every day, O’er all the way. He will take care of you: God will take care of you. (C.D. Martin)
– Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, Leaning on the every lasting arms! What a blessedness, what peace is mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms! Leaning, leaning, Safe and secure form all alarms; Leaning, leaning, Leaning on the everlasting arms.” (E.A. Hoffman)
During the time of my father’s illness, the bulk of Dad’s care fell to my sister Susan who lived near him. Then Dad was transferred to the little town of Anderson, SC to a rehab hospital which was a 30 mile drive from Susan’s home. I came up as often as I could, but we were both becoming even more exhausted. Then I discovered that there was a bed and breakfast inn nearby. I made a one night reservation for Susan and myself. After seeing Dad in the rehab hospital, we ate at a cute restaurant downtown, then we browsed through thrift stores and antique stores all afternoon and then we spent the night at the bed and breakfast inn. We left refreshed and rejuvenated by the moments of friendship and support we received from each other on our short getaway of friendship.
The Bible tells us that people can be prayer hiding places for each other. Isaiah says, ”Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” (Isaiah 32:2 NIV) An example of finding refuge in friendship is found when Gabriel announced that Mary was to bear Jesus. After receiving this stunning news, the first thing Mary did was to hurry away to “a town in the hill country of Judea” to see her older cousin, Elizabeth for a three month stay. (Luke 1:37-56) Once together, the women shared prayers of blessing and praise together.
Friendship itself is a wonderful prayer hiding place. Here are some ways that friendship can become a hiding place prayer refuge:
– form a prayer partnership with someone
– join a support group that uses prayer as part of the program
– ask someone to pray for you at specific times or for specific needs
– receive one-on-one private care through a formal care giving support system such as Stephen Ministry
– find a mentor or a sponsor
– identify a member of your extended family who is a good listener and good at praying
Other Scriptures on God as our Refuge and Hiding Place
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues Psalm 31:20 (NIV)
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Psalm 143:9 (NIV)
Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 16:1 (NIV)
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 (NIV)
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1 (NIV)
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8 (NIV)
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Psalm 73:28 (NIV)
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2 (NIV)
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4 (NIV)
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Copyright Karen Barber 2013. All rights reserved.