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.
It’s not to be like the prayers of the hypocrites who do it as some religious show, to seem like something perhaps they are not, to appear pious and righteous to other men. But the kind of prayer Jesus is talking about is the prayer that gets deep, that gets personal. What might we say to God when no one else is listening? What kinds of things can we share with our Father when we are not worrying about what others think about what we are saying, when we’re not trying to impress anyone?
That’s going to be a very different kind of prayer. That’s getting down to those deep places of confession where we recognize those ways we fail and where we are coming up short, sharing things perhaps we’d never admit to anyone else. There it involves the intimate kind of praise that is a little more personal, those kinds of things we can share with God when it is just us and Him. That is where our deepest joys can be found—when everything else is shut out and we find ourselves alone in His presence, gaining new understanding and appreciation of who He is. And that is where we can pour out everything within us, every broken part of us and every hope and desire and dream, every fear and every worry. And we can lay it all at Jesus’ feet and expect Him to do something with that.
When we stop seeking attention and just start seeking God, we’ll find a God who notices us and pays attention to us and wants to spend time with us. And nothing else can replace that time spent in helping us to build a stronger relationship with our Father. Time in prayer builds a connection with Him and helps us to learn more about Him and about ourselves in the process.
Our relationship with the Lord will probably be very shallow if it is all about how it looks to other people on the outside. Instead of keeping up appearances, let’s put some energy and effort into building a solid relationship with God. If it’s only for show, we’re doing it wrong. So may our prayer life not be just an empty ritual, a religious act of going through the motions. But may it be real and personal and meaningful. May it be done with the kind of reckless abandon that can only come when we meet with God there in that secret place.