Praying Through the Bible #119
TEXT: Matthew 6:1-8
So far in this series, we have looked at three principles that Jesus taught regarding prayer:
1. Prayer should be a regular, everyday activity. In other words, prayer is not optional for the Christian.
2. Prayer ought not to be done for the purpose of being seen by others.
3. Those who pray in a hypocritical manner — that is to be seen by men — will get their reward: they will be heard by men, and receive their praise from men, but they will not have their prayers answered by God.
Today, we are going to look at the principle of closet prayer. Jesus Christ says in verse 6 of our passage, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret.”
Someone once said, “The secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.” Ladies and gentlemen, our primary place of prayer ought to be a place of privacy and reclusion — a place where we are free from the observation of men and are subject only to the sight and hearing of God. Isaac went out into a field to pray; Jesus went up into a mountain to pray; Peter went onto a housetop to pray. The idea that Jesus Christ expresses is that we ought to be in a place where it is evident that the hypocritical praying of the Pharisees is not being done.
We ought to be content and we ought to prefer praying in private without being seen. If the only time you pray is when you are in public, that is a problem. If you examine your motives, you will likely find that you are only praying when you feel obligated to do so because of the circumstances, or you are simply following the example of the Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked — you are praying to be seen and praised by men.
Some people may think they are missing out by carrying their requests to God in secret times of prayer. They are not. Jesus says that we have a Heavenly Father who sees in secret. Nothing escapes the eyes of God. He knows who His faithful servants are, and He knows who is just praying to be seen and praised by men.
Jonathan Edwards said, “If you live in the neglect of secret prayer, you show your good will to neglect all the worship of God. He that prays only when he prays with others, would not pray at all, were it not that the eyes of others are upon him. He that will not pray where none but God seeth him, manifestly doth not pray at all out of respect to God, or regard to his all-seeing eye, and therefore doth in effect cast off all prayer. And he that casts off prayer, in effect casts off all the worship of God, of which prayer is the principal duty.”
The place of prayer which Jesus speaks of is a closet or “inner chamber.” The inner chamber was for the Jews the most private place in the home. It was the place where the owner of the house retired for the night. Rarely did anyone go into the inner chamber but the one to whom the chamber belonged. You may take the translation of a “closet” literally, and actually make the closet in your bedroom your place of private prayer. But this place can be a bedroom, an office, the den in your home — any place where you can get alone with God and be uninterrupted in your communion with Him. You may have to go out in the backyard to be alone. God blessed Iyanla Vanzant with a much better house after she lost her first house to foreclosure, and in her new house she has a prayer room — a room set aside for prayer. Those of you whom God has blessed with a big, fine house, do you have a room set aside for prayer to God?
It is said that Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, would sit on a chair and put an apron over her head as a sign that she did not want to be interrupted while praying. She had nineteen children altogether, and in the midst of all that she had to do to care for them, she still found a way to be alone with God in order to pray.
Dear friend, when was the last time you spent time in your prayer closet — when it was just you and God alone? When was the last time you shut out the world and shut yourself in with the Heavenly Father so that you could talk to Him unhindered? David Jeremiah said, “It is impossible for us to do or to be anything that God wants us to do or be, apart from spending time in the prayer closet.” If Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself, had to take time out to pray in private, certainly we ought to follow His example.