It doesn’t sound like much. Kneeling by a bed behind a closed door and speaking to the God of heaven and earth. It is after all the image we grew up with, if we had the privilege of being raised in the home of praying parents. We might even have the memory of a mom or dad close to us, guiding and participating, probably assuring us of the angels around us in the room to protect us against the fear of the dark.
For the first century Jew, it was not a familiar image. Prayer was mostly in public at set times during the day. When Jesus taught the disciples and the audience of the Sermon on the Mount to call the revered and holy Jahweh Dad, He cut to the core of their most deeply ingrained customs on prayer.
Jesus came with another revolutionary idea. Praying in private – secret prayer.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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. (Matthew 6:5,6)
This was difficult. Most houses had very little privacy. Common houses had only two rooms, one for eating and one for sleeping. In summer months the family ate on the roof for coolness. The room Jesus mentions here, or the closet, like the KJV says, was a little storeroom where food and other household stuff were stored. It was a revolutionary idea to pray where other people would not see you. As if you should go into the “unseen”, out of the public eye into the secret place.
It is into the closet that the presence of the Father shines. It is not your cold heart and discouraged, battered soul that determines your prayer. It is the Father’s heart that determines prayer. It is how much He has for you, that brings you to the closet, not your failures and fear. His presence is not dependent on your righteousness. It is your acceptance of the Cross, the Truth, His beloved Son, which guarantees the intimacy of the closet experience. There you will find the joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is only your humble heart that He wants.
How do you go in there?
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—[feeling or expressing remorse or penitence; affected by guilt]
These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
The best way to start is confession.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
The Greek word for “confess” is homologeo. It means, “to speak the same thing.” That is, to say about sin what God says about it.
Confession involves being honest, forthright, and not excusing yourself either to God or to your own conscience.
If the Father says, “I don’t want you to do that,” then you respond, “Lord, I don’t want to do that.”
Prayer needs to be honest – not accurate.
MOMENT OF PRAYER: Ask – write down your wants, needs and worries. (Get it out of the way.)
Just make it practical for a moment. Take a glass of water in your hand. How much water is in the glass – 6oz or 9oz? You can take a guess on your own size glass. You can stand with it for a while with no effect on your hand or arm. If you have to hold it for an hour, your arm will get tired and numb. If you hold that glass of water for a day, the effect on your body will bring you pain and suffering. When you put the glass on the table, it will not matter how heavy the glass is anymore. It will have no effect on you! There could just as well be a mountain in the glass!
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
So – put it down, otherwise it will make you sick.
PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence:
The God to whom we pray is a God of love who is more ready to answer than we are to pray.
Isn’t it wonderful that we have the Holy Spirit and can make any space our secret place? Our prayers are mostly secret in these modern days. Seek your privacy, create your space and put your burden at the foot of the Cross.
We have spoken about Nehemiah and his shotgun-prayers; those one sentence calls to the Almighty in the moment of need.
Our secret place is so easily accessible. It is only the move in our thoughts to take them captive and experience the loving presence of the Father, who is always with us. Surrender your imagination to God and “feel” His presence change the atmosphere around you, wherever you are. Imagine Jesus with you. He is there, but we “see” into the unseen with our inner being, our imagination. (Ephesians 1:18)
It is the safest place ever.
You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence…. (Psalm 31:20)
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1,2)