Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Praying in Your Closet – Is This Necessary?

Matthew 6:6

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

I have been having a discussion with a brother today on Facebook (private messages).  The subject was my occasional posting of some things I am praying about.

Recently I have posted the following (since early February):

Spending a few moments in my office praying for the morning at Mt. Oak Fellowship! 4th of 5 in sermon series called Guardrails!

Spent some time today praying for the lost in our church and in our community – this is often on my heart!

Spending time praying for the lost in our church and community!

Been up since 2:30 am – praying for the sisters and brothers at Mt Oak Fellowship – love this congregation and want to serve them in Christ!

The question is whether Matthew 6:6 tells us to pray privately or if sharing our prayers publicly is being boastful.  The passage is found in this section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:5-8 – 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

As I read some commentaries – I found some that said this was a teaching about the hypocrites who prayed to hear themselves pray – to use many words to be honored by the community for their skill at praying.  God teaches that in order to guard our hearts – our attitude when we pray – it is best to pray in quite – where God hears our prayers just as clearly as public prayer.

Question: Is this a teaching that says there should be no public prayer?

When I post a prayer thought that I am lifting before the Lord – my intent is to encourage the body that I am praying for us and for the lost among us.  As a pastor I am trying to set an example of what to pray for and am not trying to boast about my prayer life.  But am I boasting when I post my prayers?  I do not post all of my prayers – just those that seem to be encouraging to the Body.

I would be interested in the opinions of others for sure.  I would not want to do something that would be seen as boastful – but at the same time – if posting some prayers encourage the Body – I want to be able to do this.  Your thoughts?

Just something to think about today as you go on your way.

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February 28, 2011 - Posted by | Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Faith Journey, From the Pastor, Prayer | , , ,

14 Comments »

  1. Corporate prayer has a valuable place in the body of Christ. Solomon prayed in I King 8:44-45 regarding corporate prayer in matters of warfare. Spiritual warfare is just like warfare in the natural. I wouldn’t send just one soldier out to take a city. Jesus didn’t either…he sent his disciples out in groups.

    Members of the Body of Christ have different functions and as such they perceive different things. It is always valuable to see the same situation from various perspectives. I can’t always think of everything that needs to be prayed for in a situation.

    I’m glad to know my pastor prays and is willing to teach the community by example. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person God gets up at the Fourth Watch to pray. If Christians didn’t talk about prayer no one would know they prayed.

    If there wasn’t supposed to be public prayer then God wouldn’t have called a holy convocation for Israel 3 times a year. And besides, isn’t prayer talking to God? If we couldn’t have public prayer we couldn’t worship….that’s talking to God. Right?

    Are you boasting when you post your prayers? No. Besides, you weren’t posting your prayers, you were posting your prayer topics. Big difference. Humility is doing what God tells us to do and saying what God tells us to say. Sometimes that obedience is used to convict other people.

    Americans have an obsessive compulsion about privacy and independence which makes public prayer in community anathema. I don’t think Americans have a clue about what living as one body means. Our community lives, even our family lives, are lived independently and separately within the group.

    There. I have free associated on your topic. Take what you can use and chuck the rest in the circular file.

    Comment by Helen | February 28, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks Helen – you make some good points.

      Comment by raymcdonald | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  2. Ray:

    I consider it part of a Pastor’s calling to pray for his flock over which he is shepherd, and for which he “must give an account” as one who “watch(es)out for (their) souls.” (Heb13:17) He also should guide the prayer life of his flock, showing them at times what to pray for and how to pray, for he is to “be an example to the believers.” (1 Tim 4:12).

    Therefore I see no “boasting” about what you are doing. Please keep it up, Pastor. May the Lord bless you in your ministry.

    Jerry

    Comment by Jerry | February 28, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks Jerry. Your thoughts are helpful and your encouragement appreciated.

      Comment by raymcdonald | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  3. In the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed for his disciples (and us) in their presence. He prayed aloud before some healings and (I think) before raising Lazarus from the dead.

    The apostle Paul spoke many times of how he was praying for the recipients of his letters.

    If the Lord himself prayed aloud, who are we to say it is wrong? As you said in your post, the issue is your heart. Are you praying to hear yourself or to impress others? Or are you praying to come together with others in the Lord’s Presence, or to encourage someone for whom you are praying. For me, I often find that when I am praying in person for someone, the Lord puts words in my mouth — I pray things for them that I would not have thought to pray on my own. This does NOT happen when I pray for them alone (or even silently!).

    Comment by Molly Holloway | February 28, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks Molly. You are right it is about the heart.

      Comment by raymcdonald | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  4. So with the example of Christ in all of the gospels going away to a secluded area to pray alot and then giving us the passage of Matthew 6:6, what application do you get out of it?

    Comment by nick barbera | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  5. Any thoughts on my previous post about application?

    Also the posters “Helen” and “Jerry” in the thread, are they members at Mt Oak?

    Comment by nick barbera | March 3, 2011 | Reply

    • Not that is matters – on my bog – but yes – they are both from Mt. Oak. Molly too for that matter.

      Can’t say why people haven’t responded to your question.

      Comment by raymcdonald | March 3, 2011 | Reply

    • I just saw your question on application. So, let me try my hand…..In the book ‘All the Prayers of the Bible’ the author, Lockyer, lists multiple prayers of Jesus. He does say, “Ostentatious praying at street corners or elsewhere was discouraged by him [Jesus]“. (1973. p178) Many of the prayers listed indicate that Jesus frequently went off and prayed alone. Several of them indicate that Jesus prayed within earshot of his disciples (Luke 9:18-31, Luke 11:11, Luke 23:34-46). Some were public prayers (John 17, Luke 23:34-46). One infers that he was encouraging and teaching prayer to his disciples (Mark 6:30-31). Jesus was teaching prayer by modeling it.
      The disciples recognized that Jesus’ praying was different (it was relational), otherwise they would not have asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus’ prayers came from his personal life–these he prayed alone; his office as High Priest–these he prayed publicly; and as teacher–these include the ‘teasers’ within earshot, group (grace at meals) and public prayer (otherwise the prayers would be unknown–not recorded in Scripture).

      When Jesus taught about the Pharisees’ prayers he used two examples, one on the corner and one in a synagogue (parable). Both Pharisees exhibited the same behavior–self-righteous, prideful prayers full of pretense, made for appearance sake only. (Mark 12:40) Jesus had a relationship with his Father. The Pharisees didn’t.

      If you knew the President of the USA well, would you go around shouting on the street corner ‘I know the President! He listens to me!” I don’t think so. If you did, and the President found out, I don’t think you would be invited to the White House anytime soon. Same principle applies with God.

      Comment by Helen | March 5, 2011 | Reply

  6. I would say it comes down to the motivation (what was that you say – Christianity boils down to attitude?). Our motivation for doing things means so much. If your motivation is to show off your spirituality than any praise you get is for you and your reward. If by sharing some of your prayer topics your desire is to encourage others to pray along with you I say you are doing a good thing and God will bless.

    Comment by JR | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  7. Ray, it matters to me because I would like to get to know them in church if they attend mt oak. And what application do you personally think you can get out of the example of Jesus praying in seclusion and telling others to pray in secret?

    Hi JR,

    are you saying in your parenthesis, “(what was that you say – Christianity boils down to attitude?)” that i say that? are you quoting me? Sorry, I just didnt understand who that is directed at :)

    Comment by nick barbera | March 3, 2011 | Reply

    • Nick – I think JR is quoting me – his comment was not a reply to your comment but a comment on the original post. I hope I have that correct. I am the one who has made the statement that “Christianity boils down to attitude” the position and condition of ones mind/heart or motivation. It is not about a laundry list of dos and don’ts – although we are called to go and sin no more. Rather it is about God’s grace and our heart being set on His redeeming grace.

      Hope that helps.

      Comment by raymcdonald | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  8. I came across this blog when I Googled about ‘praying in your closet’ because it came to me that it is how we should be praying. I am now of the opinion that we do not have to share with anyone what we are praying about/for. I believe that as the Word says, He will reward/answer what we pray for in secret.

    Comment by Denise | January 27, 2014 | Reply


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