“Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
In the past I’ve taught that because of the demands of making a living, we may have a “secret closet of prayer” anywhere: in the car, on the bus, during a break at work. In measure, this is true. But there is more to it. The Greek word for “closet” in this verse means “a private room, a secret place.” This was clear to Jesus’ listeners, because the homes in their culture had an inner room that served as a sort of storage closet. Jesus’ command was to go into that secret closet as an individual and shut the door behind you. There you will enter into the kind of prayer that cannot happen in church or with a prayer partner.
Jesus set the example for this, as he went to private places to pray. Over and over Scripture tell us that he “went aside” to spend time in prayer. No one had a busier life, as he was constantly pressed by the needs of those around him, with so little time to himself. Yet, we are told, “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). “When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).
We all have excuses for why we don’t pray in secret, in a special place alone. We say we have no such private place, or no time to do it. Thomas Manton, a godly Puritan writer, says this: “We say we have no time to pray secretly. We yet have time for all else: time to eat, to drink, for children, yet not time for what sustains all else. We say we have no private place, but Jesus found a mountain, Peter a rooftop, the prophets a wilderness. If you love someone, you will find a place to be alone.”
Do you see the importance of setting your heart to pray in a secret place? It is not about legalism or bondage, but about love. It is about God’s goodness toward us. He sees what’s ahead and knows we need tremendous resources, daily replenishing. All of that is found in the secret place with him.