Peninsula Community Church
Prayer Series: Where You Pray
February 7, 2016
Matthew 6:5-8 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
In the movie, the War Room, we find the movie opens with Clara giving a overview of her husband’s life as a soldier. If you remember the opening scene, the commanders and strategists are in a room that is filled with maps and war plans. The idea presented by Clara is that when a nation is at war they will develop strategic plans on how to fight battles and in essence how to win at war. This is accomplished in the war room. As the movie progresses we find the focus of the movie is on having a personal “war room” where we can strategize and set in motion particular plans on how to win the battles we face each and every day.
Jesus referred to this place as the closet of prayer. Jesus stated that when we pray we are to go into our room or closet and shut the door. The idea from the heart of God is to have that place where we can be alone with Him and can pray without the hindrance of outside influences. Note that the passage states that the reason we pray in secret is that God rewards those who pray in the secret place and He does so in the open. The point is that what is done in secret will be revealed in the open.
With that said, let me make a comment or two about prayer. First, the location of our closet of prayer is not as important as just having a place to pray. You see some people might have a specific room that is set aside solely as a place to pray but the reality is that life does not always allow this to occur. The truth is that our secret place can be our den. It can be our favorite chair. It can be at our dinner or breakfast table. For some it might even be our car. The idea purposed here is that we need a designated place where we have our “prayer time,” “a quiet time,” or what ever else you might call it.
Secondly, in the movie we saw that Clara, Elizabeth, and even little Daniella had a wall where they would post their prayer requests and they post answered prayers. We too need a wall or a place where we can post our prayer requests. It might be a physical wall. It might be a journal notebook. It might be a file on your computer. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The idea is to have a place where we can list, track, and remember our prayer requests. It is also a place where we remember what God has done in us and what He has accomplished through our praying. This is important because we can easily forget what God has done.
Thirdly, while we need a location that we set aside for our prayer time we must also have an understanding that we should walk in a spirit of prayer. It is possible to believe that once we have prayed in our closet, we can check that off our list and go on about our day. The problem is that we can confuse the place of prayer with the heart of prayer. The place of prayer prepares us for the day before us and focuses our attention on the day ahead. It also focuses our attention on our need for God. The heart of prayer maintains a steadfastness in prayer throughout the day.
Finally, we meet in a designated place because we have a relationship with God. Our prayers must be founded in the relationship we have with God. The key is to never just check prayer off of our list. In our closet of prayer we must know that we are literally meeting with the King of Kings and the Creator of All Things. Today is Valentine’s Day. Other than Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest times for restaurants. Why is that? It is because we want to be together with the one we love. We determine their favorite place and we make sure we have a reservation and off we go. We do this because we love our spouse and we want to bless them. God wants to meet with us and He wants to talk with us. That happens in our closet of prayer.
But why does God call us to a place of secrecy? Let me give you three reasons. First, shutting the door shifts the focus off of others. Remember the problem with the hypocrites is that they loved to be the center of attention. In our closet of prayer we do not have to impress any one, imitate any one, or worry about being judged by someone else. In our closet of prayer we can simple focus our attention on God.
Listen to the words of Proverbs 29:25. The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Here is a fact that we can take to the bank. God is not going to judge you when you pray. He is not going to criticize you. He is going to love you and draw you closer to His heart. In our closet of prayer we can be our self. We can cry. We can laugh. We can even sit and do nothing because we are in the presence of God and in His presence we can be real and authentic.
The second reason to go into our closet of prayer is that shutting the door shifts the focus off of self. You see when we are in our closet of prayer we become less self-conscious and more God-conscious. You see in our private times of prayer God will reveal more of who we are, who He is, and how to walk in the light of His Word.
If you are like me, too many times when I enter my closet of prayer I become distracted and restless. You know how it goes. Suddenly I start to remember all of the things I need to do. I remember things that I have forgotten to do. In prayer we discover that our minds are easily divided. Even in our closet of prayer we can catch the plague of wandering thoughts. But in having a secret stillness before God we can deliberately shut the door to the distractions of life. In so doing, we shift the focus away from ourselves which brings us to the last point.
The third reason we go into our closet of prayer is that shutting the door shifts God of our thinking onto His place of priority. In our society today, we are constantly reminded that we should silence our phones so that we do not distract others. In churches, movie theaters, and while driving we are encouraged to put our phones down. I know that for Michelle and I we have had to make a conscience decision to turn off our phones, iPads, and computers at the dinner table. As a society we have an addiction to our phones and it seems we have to always have them near us because we might miss a call, text, or Facebook post. But when we want to show respect and honor we shut off our phones and pay attention to the one with whom we are with. The same applies as we enter our prayer closet. We must remove all distractions. When we go into our prayer closet we must eliminate the noise in order to focus on the face that is in front of us.
Closet praying is critical. God not only hears what is prayed in secret but the implication in this passage is that He is in the secret place with us. The secret place of prayer represents the presence of God in our life. It is the place we go to meet with God. It is true that God is present everywhere but in the secret place of prayer we find God meeting with us, personally.
Jesus who is our great example of how to pray showed us the necessity of prayer and getting alone with God. In Matthew 14:23 we find that after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Jesus the God of all creation had to take time to be alone with the Father. If he needed time to be alone with God, how much more do we need time to be alone with the Heavenly Father.
In Luke 6:12 we find that Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. It is noteworthy that after he prayed all night he went out to select the disciples who would follow him throughout His ministry. You see even Jesus needed God’s direction before he made such a great decision. How much more do we need to pray and hear from God?
In Luke 5:15-16 we find that Jesus prayed after he ministered to the great crowds. But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Even Jesus needed prayer when He was in ministry. He took time to withdraw to quiet places to pray. He focused on prayer because He needed to hear from God. He wanted to be connected to the Father and He did that by way of prayer.
In Luke 22:41-44 we find Jesus praying for the will of God to be achieved in His life. “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. It is noteworthy that Jesus, the God of all creation, prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in His life. How do we advance God’s will? We do so by praying for God’s will and purpose to be accomplished in us.
As we close today let me share a quote by Oswald Chambers. This was his August 23rd entry in “My Utmost for His Highest.” He stated Unless you learn to open the door of your life completely and let God in from your first waking moment of each new day, you will be working on the wrong level throughout the day. But if you will swing the door of your life fully open and “pray to your Father who is in the secret place,” every public thing in your life will be marked with the lasting imprint of the presence of God.
Shutting the door and spending time alone with God is a practice we need. Shutting the distracting doors of the mind and our hearts will allow us to focus completely on God. By shutting the door of prayer we open our hearts to His will and His power. What a difference we will make. What answered prayers we will see occur.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom