In the Closet of Prayer
“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.” Matt 6:6
Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually go into my closet to pray. It’s a pretty small space and so crammed full of stuff there’s not even room to squeeze in there.
What do think Jesus was getting at?
I have usually thought of the closet as a place to be quiet, where I can shut the door on all the noisy demands of a given moment and be in communion with God. Sometimes this means literally shutting a door to my bedroom or office. But even with the physical doors shut, I still have to shut the mental doors to all the thoughts clamoring for attention and keeping me from focusing on prayer.
The other day, I got curious about the word closet. It seems an odd word for Jesus to use. So I looked it up. It comes from the Greek word tameion which means a dispensary or storehouse or a place for privacy.
Maybe you have a pantry in your kitchen, or at least some shelves for storage. When you need something that’s in there, you open the door and get what you need. Simple as that.
Go into your storehouse.
This gives just a hint at what Jesus was talking about. Think for a minute about the implications of literally going into your storehouse to ask God something in prayer. You go in with a need, whatever it is, and shut the door. In other words, you stop thinking about all the stuff outside. All you can see are the resources you already have.
I think Jesus was demanding two things of us. First, he wants us to be grateful for what God has given us up to this point. But more importantly, we can pray for the current need from a place of abundance instead of lack. Since God has supplied what is already in the storehouse, He is more than capable of giving us what we need at this moment. Going into your storehouse is going where the supplies are. Going into the closet of prayer is going where the answers are already present.
So why should we shut the door and pray in secret?
First, to keep all the distractions out and keep us focused on the solutions God is providing. And also to keep us honest with ourselves as we pray.
When Jesus tells us to go into the closet, he has just lambasted the hypocrites for praying publicly to be seen by others. Have you ever given the prayer at church or at a public meeting and tried to impress people with the wonderful words coming forth from your lips? Ever tried to sound more spiritually minded than the fellow who did it last time? Now, be honest. I know I have.
If that’s what’s going on in your heart, it doesn’t matter how fancy your words are. You are not really praying.
God will glorify you
We want to be recognized for our worth and we want to share our ideas. Nothing wrong with that. But it is not for us to glorify ourselves. That’s God’s job. And He will glorify you in just the way He knows will bless you the most.
But if we are trying to impress others with our holy words and thereby glorify ourselves, we will miss the glory that God is giving us.
Jesus’ promise is that God will reward us openly–in His way, on His schedule. To me this implies that you cannot stay in the closet forever. You have to come out and use the resources, the ideas, the answers God has given you to bless your fellow man.
The next time you pray, go to your secret place of spiritual abundance, shut out the nagging worries of the day or the problem at hand and see the good God has bestowed on you. Accept with gratitude His blessings past, present and future. Then pray with all your heart. Trust Him with your inner most desires. If He purifies those desires before granting them, so much the better.