Matthew 6:5-6 highlights the importance of where we pray and why. The purpose of prayer is to communicate with God. Our concern should be what God thinks of us and not what others may think. Jesus tells us in verse 6 to pray in secret so that there would be no temptation to impress other people and so that we can receive the Father’s full reward.
Jesus gives us these directions because he saw people praying for the wrong reasons. The hypocritical Jewish leaders pretended to be something they were not. That is what a hypocrite is – someone who acts out a part that is not true in reality. They gave the appearance that they were close to God, but in reality they did not really care what God thought of them. What was important to them was what the people thought. The Scribes and Pharisees wanted the people to think they were pious and close to God, so they made it their practice to pray in such a way as to be seen by men. They made a show out of their prayers. Their prayers did not reach God because they were not meant for God.
Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father who knows all secrets, will reward you.”
Do you have secret place that you can go to be alone with God? Mine is not too secret. It is just the corner of my couch with my Bible, my journal, and usually a cup of coffee. Secret prayer is actually not about the place where we pray. It is about praying, no matter where we are. Look at Jesus’ life of ministry. He did not have a home that he retreated to every night so that He could wake up every morning and have His prayer time on His couch. Matthew 14:23 shows us that Jesus would often withdraw from the crowds and his disciples and pray by himself; “After Jesus said goodbye to the people, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. It was late, and he was there alone”. He was always traveling and finding His secret place of prayer, up on the mountainside (as this Sermon on the Mount began), the Garden of Gethsemane, the wilderness, or a deserted place. It seems the Bible points out that Jesus had most of His alone time with God outside!!! When we are outside, we leave behind many distractions (family members, internet, phones, food, the massive list of to-dos) and we are surrounded by God’s glorious creation. Especially now that the snow is gone and the birds are singing! Jesus lived the habit of secret prayer outside.
When we withdraw from the public to our private place of prayer we can be sure that God is there with us. He comes near to us when we come near to Him (James 4:8). There are benefits to be had for coming to the private place and communing with God. Hebrews 11:6 says that God “rewards those who sincerely try to find him.” When we turn to God instead of turning to anything or anyone else, He is pleased with us and rewards us.
What a blessing to set aside a time of prayer in a secluded place. A place where you can pray without being interrupted. A place where you can pour out even the secret things of your heart. Do you have a place designated that you regularly visit to pray?
We are all SO ready for spring and warm weather. Get outside this weekend and have some secret prayer in God’s creation. Go for a walk, notice the beauty around you and listen to how God speaks to you through His creation.
“Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Turn and take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful.”