But When Ye Pray ...
Before Jesus actually spoke the words of "The Lord's Prayer" as an example for us to follow, He taught the disciples the importance of having the proper attitude towards prayer.
People pray in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons, depending on their culture and background, their personal experiences and observations, and their doctrinal preference or denominational affiliation. Some churches practice a liturgical approach, reading pre-written prayers as part of their worship experience. Others follow a less formal, more relaxed and open format for prayer. Regardless of these factors or your particular practice, the Bible provides a pretty clear description of what God considers to be the proper attitude towards prayer. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explained that attitude this way:
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 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. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."
Without a doubt, there have already been countless sermons preached and numerous books written regarding prayer and this passage of scripture in particular. Frankly, it seems the majority of them have dealt with the negative side things, i.e., don't be a "show off", don't use flashy or fruitless words, don't act like a heathen. (All of that is obviously good advice, considering it is our Lord Jesus Christ who is saying it!) However, the purpose of this article is to delve a little deeper into the attitude we have towards prayer ... and that attitude is revealed in one simple phrase: "enter into thy closet".
Many people take this instruction very literally, and use an actual closet or similar enclosed space in their home for the purpose of prayer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. My mother did that, and she was an awesome prayer warrior! I myself have done that -- although not currently, since I'm essentially "homeless" at the moment and don't have a closet! Does that mean one cannot pray properly without a "prayer closet"? Thankfully, no it doesn't ... provided you understand what this "closet" represents. In the original text, the word translated "closet" is tameîon, and it means "a storeroom; a hidden or secret chamber". The implication refers to the common practice of using such a space to store or hide treasure. It's a place where items of great value were hidden from prying eyes. Today, we would call such a place a "safe" or "vault".
Why would Jesus tell us to use a hidden chamber where treasure is stored as a place to pray? The reason is two-fold. First, and most obviously, it's so we can enjoy the presence of our Father and the Holy Spirit privately ... intimately ... without distraction. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it's an indication of the value we place on that time in prayer! Right now, another verse should be coming to mind. You'll find it if you read just a little bit further: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21)
So having that knowledge and insight fresh in your mind, here's a question to consider: What value do you place on prayer? Is it something you do as part of a religious exercise? Do you pray only when the pressure is on and you have nowhere else to turn? Or do you value and regard it so highly, that you simply cannot wait to hide yourself in intimate communion with Him? Whatever your answer is to that question, wherever you are in your relationship with the Father, commit yourself to do this one thing ... don't EVER stop praying!