By T.M. Anderson
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." (Matthew 6:6)
There is a time to pray, and there is a place to pray. It was a custom of our Lord to depart into a solitary place, and there pour out His heart to the Father. He often found relief from His burden of prayer among the friendly hills; and in the unbroken silence of the desert.
Jesus evidently meant to disclose the pattern of His own praying in these words spoken to His disciples about praying in secret. The closet was a secret chamber in an Oriental home, generally used for a place of privacy. Jesus selected this secret place to impress us with the necessity of having an appointed time, and a secret place to commune with our Heavenly Father. Jesus speaks of "Thy closet." He recognizes that we can have, and must have a secluded place to meet with God in prayer. To Him, a secret place for prayer was a necessary part of His own life; it was built into His living like the closet was built into the home.
We cannot build a strong Christian character without making room in our lives for secret prayer; for every thing pertaining to holy living is received by prayer and supplication.
Perhaps it is difficult for someone to understand that prayer proceeds out of the heart and mind of the worshiper. We must begin our praying in secret with a sincere purpose in mind and heart. What we have to say to God, we must say it from the heart, and not to be heard of men like the hypocrites.
We cannot make our hearts and minds a storeroom for earthly things, and at the same time have a secret place to meet God. Jesus said, "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to the Father. We are not ready to pray until our hearts and minds are divested of the cares and concerns of this world. When we have emptied our hearts of earthly things, and have shut the door of the mind against the din and confusion of this restless world, we can pray with the assurance of being heard. We cannot get God's door open until we get our door shut. When the mind is wandering, and the heart is filled with business affairs, the door is not closed, and we cannot pray. We have the power of will to shut the door of the heart and mind, and to concentrate all of the heart and mind in secret prayer. It requires effort of will, and a strong determination of the mind to overcome the distractions of daily living, and enter the closet and shut the door. But the reward for the self-denial is worth the efforts of the will to obtain it. When we have completely overcome these clamoring concerns of life, and mastered our many physical infirmities by the help of the Spirit, we can prevail in prayer. In the peaceful seclusion of our innermost souls we can commune with the Heavenly Father in perfect confidence; and the Father which seeth our hearts in secret shall reward us openly.
There is a quiet place where we can be separated from the confusions which clutter our minds and crowd our hearts in daily life; it is a sacred place where the multiplicity of things cease to congest our souls. It is a secret retreat where the door is closed, and the babel of boisterous voices calling for our attention cannot be heard, and all business pursuits bidding for our services are forgotten. There is a sheltered place for prayer where the floodgate of the soul can be opened, and the heart be relieved of its burden in the Presence of a sympathetic Father. It is the refuge of the soul where our tears can freely flow, and their unspoken language is understood. It is a silent and solitary place where the prying eyes of men cannot behold our sorrows and sufferings, and no one can make us ashamed and afraid.
The blessed Savior has disclosed the holy place, the hallowed room of secret prayer, where we can enter by faith, and close the door against our family, and our friends, and our foes, and on the pinions of prayer, pass beyond the limits of time, and invade eternity by the invincible power of the Name of Jesus.
I have often been so bewildered and hindered by my infirmities of body and mind that I did not know what to pray for as I ought. I was unable to utter the yearnings of my own heart. But the cry of my heart was heard in heaven, because the Holy Spirit had helped my infirmities. "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Rom. 8:26-27)
This promise gives us great encouragement to pray from our hearts. The cry of the heart will be assisted by the indwelling Spirit, and He that searches the heart knows the mind and purpose of the supplicating saints, and will reward them openly.
We could not pray without ceasing unless much of our praying was done in the heart. It would be a physical impossibility to cry unto God day and night if we could not pray in the secret chambers of the soul. The secret praying of the heart is infinitely more than thinking a prayer. There is a language of the heart that God understands; there is a whisper of the soul, unheard on earth, but heard in heaven.
Praying in secret is not a substitute for praying in public; we cannot use this sacred privilege to justify our unwillingness to engage in the public worship of God in prayer. Jesus prayed in secret, and He prayed in public; His disciples were blessed and edified by hearing Him pray.