"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.Matthew 6:6(NASB)
Prayer is one of the most vital and special prerogatives that Christians have been afforded in this Church age. Through the blood of Christ, Christians in this dispensation of Grace, have been given access into the throne-room of God, and as His children, we have been given the right to draw near to Him with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help in times of need.
The only way for a man to approach God before the Cross was through the Levitical priesthood, which would act as mediator between God and man as required by the Law. But this restrictive way to approach the Lord was replaced by a new and better way - a heavenly Mediator - the Man Christ Jesus.
Today we can pray directly to our Father, THROUGH the Son, Who died to pay the price for our sin. He is our heavenly High Priest Whose shed blood demolished the barrier between a holy God and sinful man... for although Jesus is fully God, He is also the sinless Man Who became our Kinsman-Redeemer.
Today we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, for He provided a new and living way for us to pray to our Father in heaven. During His earthly ministry, prayer was not only a vital part of life - but a subject about which the Lord taught often and an issue that should rejoice our hearts and become a vital element of our Christian walk.
It was partway through the famous, 'sermon on the mount', that Jesus gave His short but instructive teaching on the important practice of prayer, and the specific need for our own, private prayer-time. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room," He taught, "Close your door and pray to your Father, Who is in secret, and your Father, Who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
The practice of the Pharisees was to stand on the street corners, and proclaim loud, pious prayers.. so that they would be seen by men, and impress the people that passed by. God had commanded Israelite men to put tassels on their garments, to remind them of the 613 commandments of God. But instead of praying in humility of heart, they turned prayer into a legalistic practice in order to draw attention to their own religiosity!
Submissive worship of God is the essence of prayer, and the self-glorification of those hypocritical Pharisees was denounced by Jesus, Who taught that prayer to our unseen, heavenly Father, should be carried out privately. Prayer should be undertaken in the reverential fear of the Lord and in an unfeigned humility of heart.
Because of this directive, some like to teach that communal prayer, with other brothers and sisters in Christ, is unbiblical, but this teaching does not prohibit public prayer, but is specifically geared towards our own, individual, private prayer-time - where the child of God enjoys sweet communion with his heavenly Father - as we come to the throne of grace because of our identity with Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is not so much where we pray that is important, but why we pray.. and the attitude of heart that lies behind the prayers and petitions that we offer to God about which Jesus is teaching in this passage. However, we are certainly encouraged to set aside a place of prayer - an inner room - a secret closet where we can meet and commune with our Father in heaven.
Susanna Wesley was the busy wife of Samuel, the rector of Epworth Church, and John and Charles Wesley were two of her many children. It was difficult for her to find a private closet in her busy home, but Susanna would sit in her kitchen chair and pull her apron over her face to indicate to the family that she was not to be disturbed, because she was in private prayer with her heavenly Father.
Prayer is intimate communion with our God, and the necessity to take time alone with the Lord, in secret prayer, cannot be over-emphasised. We may not have our own, private, prayer closet... nor may we need to use a kitchen chair and apron, but each one of us should find our own 'prayer closet' in which to come before the Lord. Indeed, before engaging in public prayer with others, we should establish a closeness with God through privately meeting with Him, in the solitude of our own prayer 'closet' - wherever that may be.
Prayer is the breath of the soul, which continuously reaches out in helplessness to the God Who made us and redeemed us, with His own precious blood. Prayer is an attitude of heart, that cries out to the tender Father-heart of God, for intimacy and close communion. Prayer is the combining of man's helplessness with his faith in God's gracious provision, and prayer translates into a heart that trust in His never-ending love.
Let us pray, day by day, in the quietness of our own particular, private, prayer 'closet', for prayer is one of the most vital and special prerogatives that Christians have been afforded in this Church age of grace.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift and privilege of prayer. Thank You that I have access to Your throne of grace, for help in time of need. You alone are worthy of my grateful thanks and praise for this unparalleled birth-right. Renew in me an increasing desire to know You more, and to love You better with each passing day. Purge from me any petty attitudes that may hinder my fellowship with You. Instil in me a deepening desire to linger in Your presence and to praise You unceasingly, in spirit and truth. And develop in my heart an attitude of worshipful prayer, so that my communion with You becomes the essential essence of my very life on earth. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.