Much is made of the “formula” of the Lord’s Prayer. Rightly so, for the Lord’s Prayer is a template and there is much value in studying it. So also is Jesus’s prescription for our preparation for prayer. Contrasting it with the hypocrites, who pray their own thoughts in public for everyone to see, Jesus instructs us, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”
Jesus has an expectation of our prayer. An expectation that we should give time and space in our lives for it. He says, “When you pray.” There must therefore be an intentionality and purpose to our prayer. Let us not think lowly of that. Nowadays impromptu prayer seems more highly valued than scheduled prayer. But both have their place in the Christian’s life. A scheduled day of prayer has much value, and inception is not too short a time for God to work. Both are the appointed moment from God’s viewpoint, for they are when we pray. When we pray is never a hindrance.
Neither is where we pray, although where and when might be an impediment to us. To that point Jesus encourages us, “go into your room, close the door and pray.” He knows that we are too easily distracted. Distracted from setting time aside to pray, and distracted while praying.
Having not only a time set aside for prayer, but a place also, allows that our attention can be as focused as possible. This is the crux of the matter, for it is to whom we pray that matters far more than when or how or where we pray. He is the source of true prayer as well as the object and the answer of prayer. Prayer is all about Him. The very best we can do then, is to do all we can to keep our attention on Him. That isn’t easy in our day, and it wasn’t easy in Jesus’ day either. Having a place for prayer is therefore helpful, even if it isn’t necessary.
Past generations had a name for that kind of place. A “prayer closet.” Not so much a literal room (although can be helpful), it is a place we go to pray on a regular basis. The frequency and passion of our prayers there allow us to really focus on Him, so that it becomes a “thin place”. Not because of us, but because of Him. The recognition of His presence makes it a holy place, and over time we find it easier and easier to meet Him there. A prayer closet is a prescription for the distracted mind.
When we pray, we purpose to be present to God. We may or may not be consistently successful in that, but we can know that whenever we pray, God is always present to us. In prayer we become more aware of Him, for we set our minds on hearing what He would want to say to us. We can know that as we pray He is keenly aware of us, and intensely focused on what we are trying to communicate to Him. It is not an understatement to say that our effort in focusing on Him is but the faintest shadow of His focus on us. Our interest in Him and His purposes are but the smallest degree a reflection of His interest in us and our lives.
God cares for His own. God loves His children. God is our Father, and everyone who spends time in their prayer closet focused on Him soon learns that.
Are you conscious that Christ is there in the room with you, or are you just talking to the walls?David R. Mains
Where do you do your regular devotional time? What can you do to make it a bit more focused on His presence?