But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret…
That which relates to the individual. Private prayer. "Prayer is the offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the Name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies." Our Lord assumes that his disciples will recognize the need for private prayer, and feel the impulse to private prayer, as distinct from the claim to join in the public prayers of synagogue and temple. "Come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." "Enter into thy closet," etc. Our Lord's laws for private prayer seem to take a fourfold form.
I. HAVE A PLACE. The "closet" here is really the "store-chamber" of the house. Usually a dark closet, in which the articles used by night are stored away by day. In an Eastern house privacy could be secured in it. Our Lord made a place of prayer on the hillside or in the garden. St. Peter made a place of the quiet housetop. Washington was seen to retire daily to a grove in the vicinity of the camp at Valley Forge. The late General Gordon daily put a sign outside his tent to indicate that he wished to be alone for a while. The sailor-boy made a place at the mast-head; the little servant made a place in the coal-cellar. Of this it may be said, "Where there's a will there's a way."
II. BE ALONE. And feel alone. "Shut the door." "One great advantage of a chamber set apart for prayer is that it keeps us free from many distractions. Our hearts are ready enough of themselves to wander;" and so we need every outward help we can gain. The sense of being undisturbed is most helpful to concentration of thought. Illustrate how God took Moses and Elijah to be "alone with him," before he could speak freely to them. There is nothing so solemnizing as the feeling of being shut up with God.
III. SPEAK FREELY. Then we may do so, because there is no one near to hear us, and either admire or reproach us. We can be simply and entirely our own true selves before God. Even in private prayer Easterns spoke aloud; and for us to do so would give directness, point, and power to our petitions.
IV. CHERISH CONFIDENCE. Always keep in mind that you are speaking to the Father, and may have the good child's assurance. And confidence asks much. John Bunyan tells how beggars used to carry with them a bowl when they went to beg at a house. Some of them brought only small bowls; and so, however rich and bountiful the householder might be, he could not give them more than their bowl could contain; others brought great bowls, and carried them home full. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But thou, 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.