Thoughts about the Third Lesson of With Christ in the School of Prayer:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ( Matthew 6:5-8 )
“And when you pray…” notice first of all that the practice of prayer is assumed to be a characteristic of the followers of Christ. Prayer is something that should be both natural and common place, something that is not only assumed but understood to be vital in the life of His followers. About this characteristic of the followers of Christ Matthew Henry commented “You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray.”
Notice secondly that prayer is also an activity regularly and publicly practiced by hypocrites. Another word for hypocrite is pretender and these pretenders could be found in the time of Jesus, just as today, everywhere — street corners, places of worship, and almost any other place they could find to perform for a human audience.
By way of contrast, Jesus also taught about the difference between the right and wrong motivation for prayer: pretenders pray to bring attention to themselves but true prayer is focused on the Father; pretenders pray for the benefit of their human audience but true prayer is an offering of intimate fellowship; the prayers of pretenders are faithless “empty phrases” but true prayer is authored by need, sealed by faith, and confirmed by the Father’s foreknowledge.
If we would learn to pray rightly we will do well to often and regularly enter into our own prayer closet and there learn from the Master in the School of Prayer.
Blessed Saviour! with my whole heart I do bless Thee for the appointment of the inner chamber, as the school where Thou meetest each of Thy pupils alone, and revealest to him the Father. O my Lord! strengthen my faith so in the Father’s tender love and kindness, that as often as I feel sinful or troubled, the first instinctive thought may be to go where I know the Father waits me, and where prayer never can go unblessed. Let the thought that He knows my need before I ask, bring me, in great restfulness of faith, to trust that He will give what His child requires. O let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot of earth.
And, Lord! hear me as I pray that Thou wouldest everywhere bless the closets of Thy believing people. Let Thy wonderful revelation of a Father’s tenderness free all young Christians from every thought of secret prayer as a duty or a burden, and lead them to regard it as the highest privilege of their life, a joy and a blessing. Bring back all who are discouraged, because they cannot find ought to bring Thee in prayer. O give them to understand that they have only to come with their emptiness to Him who has all to give, and delights to do it. Not, what they have to bring the Father, but what the Father waits to give them, be their one thought.
And bless especially the inner chamber of all Thy servants who are working for Thee, as the place where God’s truth and God’s grace is revealed to them, where they are daily anointed with fresh oil, where their strength is renewed, and the blessings are received in faith, with which they are to bless their fellow-men. Lord, draw us all in the closet nearer to Thyself and the Father. Amen.