Depending upon the Bible translation used, the term “secret place” can appear dozens of times in both Old and New Testaments. Some translations use the word shelter, covering, or dwelling rather than “secret place.” In the Old Testament, the term “secret place” comes from the Hebrew root word cether, which means “to hide or be concealed.” This word is used in Psalm 139, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” Psalm 139:15
Here it speaks of the hidden world of a mother’s womb as a child develops. But this word is also used in Psalm 32, “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.” Psalm 32:7
Although a secret place can refer to a physical location, it most often connotes a state of a soul in its relationship with God. “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5
The psalmist is not referring to an actual tabernacle or tent in which he will hide from physical enemies. He is speaking of the state of peace God gives in the midst of trials and attacks. The idea of a secret place originates with God. Because He is a Spirit and His glory is beyond our ability to perceive, we must meet with Him in the secret places of the heart in order to commune with Him. When Moses wanted to see the glory of God, the LORD explained that no man could see God and live (Exodus 33:20). So God allowed Moses to see His glory only from a secret place. “And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”Exodus 33:22–23
Here God gives us a glimpse into what we must do to experience His presence. It can only be enjoyed when we enter His secret place. Psalm 91 gives a good illustration of the value of a secret place: “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” Psalm 91:1
Think of the secret hiding places one enjoyed as children. Imagine being ten years old and finding a secret hiding place under the stairs or in a tress or bushes. You felt safe and protected from the world. You imagined that you could live there all the time and no one could find you. Often, you invited your best friend to share it with you, because secret hiding places are better shared with someone you care for and trust.
That is the picture the psalmist is painting in Psalm 91. God has a secret hiding place, and He invites each of us to join Him there. Notice that He does not invite us to visit. The promise is to those who “dwell” there. To “dwell” means we live there. It becomes our address. God invites us to pack up and move to His secret place. To do so we must walk away from the clamor and enticements of the world. We must be willing to quiet our hearts before Him and allow Him to investigate those inner recesses we reveal to no one else. Secret places imply honesty and trust. We cannot join God in His secret place unless we are willing to be transparent and honest with Him, that is the bottom line.
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:6
Jesus was not necessarily indicating a physical location, because we can pray anywhere at any time. But to really connect with God, we must enter into the secret place in our own spirits and meet God there. Quiet locations help, and we should seek solitude when we want to spend uninterrupted time with God. It is also helpful to have a designated place we go to spend time with God. Jesus did this while on earth. Although He often prayed in public, He also slipped away from the crowds and even His closest friends to spend time alone with His Father in solitude (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42). But the secret place that Psalm 91 describes is not a physical location. It is a state of spiritual rest that prevails, regardless of outward circumstances.
There is great benefit from dwelling in “the secret place of the Most High.” When we choose to leave behind the world’s delights in favor of a lifestyle of spiritual devotion, God draws near in new ways (James 4:8). We begin to see our sin the way He does (Isaiah 6:1–5). Time spent in the presence of God reveals our true thoughts and selfish motivations that might otherwise escape unnoticed. From this secret place, the fruit of the Spirit takes root and grows (Galatians 5:22). We start to see our lives from an eternal perspective. Earthly frustrations lose significance.
We do not have to neglect our responsibilities or relationships to dwell in this secret place. The key to moving there is a total surrender to the Holy Spirit and the will of God for our lives. This decision dominates our actions and changes our outlook. As we obey, God meets us in His secret place (John 14:21). He teaches us and encourages us to remain. Our continual choice to surrender fully to Him results in our continued strength to do so. If our lives are to bear lasting fruit, the power to bear that fruit comes from time spent with God in the secret place (John 15:4–5; 1 Corinthians 3:14–15; Psalm 92:12–14).