And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 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. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Matthew 6:5-15
There is an old story that I heard many years ago about a young pastor just starting out with his first congregation. He opened services with a very long prayer filled with flowery language. At the close of the prayer, an elderly Sister lovingly admonished him, “Next time, just call Him Daddy and ask Him for something.”
In this model prayer, Jesus does not forbid public prayer. This is, once again, is a lesson on the proper motivation behind prayer. If we pray so that others see that we are religious, God does not honor the prayer because it was not offered in faith.
Further, Jesus teaches us that our prayers should be direct and simple – We should seek to live according to God’s will. We should ask for our needs and thank Him for blessings. And we should pray that God protects us from evil influences.
It is interesting that Jesus only explains one portion of the prayer and that regards forgiveness. Our closeness to Christ depends on His forgiveness of us through our conscience. If we hold things against others, God will hold that between us and Him.
There may be more and more attempts to ban Christianity and the free exercise of it in the coming months and years, but we should never forget that no oppressor can stop us from praying. Prayer is a private matter. It does not require any outward posture, location, sound, or preparation. God’s people can and should be private in prayer all day long. The metaphor of a closet shows us that no one can tell when we are praying!