by Sherry Sommer

 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.  Matthew 6:6 NIV

Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do “ All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Matthew 11:25-27 NIV

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples to keep their prayer life private and to have one-on-one conversations in a room with God. Later in Matthew, he tells them to be like little children as they seek God’s wisdom and direction.  Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount has seemed distant to me. What did he mean about going to our room?  I often pray during the day, but the idea of going to my room to pray seemed odd.

Jesus’ words came to life when I read these two passages while writing this devotional.  I realized that I had practiced Jesus’ instructions when I was a child.
I’d often read my Bible and pray in a small room in our basement.  It was cool and quiet in the summer and one of the few private spaces in our crowded house. No one told me to read my Bible, and it never felt like something I “should” do. No one knew how I was spending my time.  Reading the Bible and talking to God felt meaningful and natural to me.  I’d get comfortable in the rickety twin bed, probably propping one skinny, sunbrowned leg against the other.  The Proverbs stood out to me, especially what they taught about wisdom:

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get  wisdom
Though it costs all you have,  get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

Since the Bible said wisdom was the most important thing, I’d pray for wisdom and trust that God would answer my prayers. As I remember my past, God is helping me understand what Jesus says about prayer in Matthew. 

Pray like a child

In order to be spiritually healthy, Jesus says that we need to preserve something of who we were as children.  We learn and grow through age and experience, which is good and necessary.  At the same time, we can lose something that’s very valuable,  a childlike attitude. Children can have unquestioning confidence that God loves them, that they can trust him, and that he is able to do all that he says. Children know they can’t figure out life on their own, that they must depend on God who is able and willing to help. 

It’s important to discern how the past can help us. We just had a series on emotional health; in order to be emotionally healthy, we shouldn’t want to live in or dwell on the past; as Paul says, “leave childish ways behind”.  Even if our childhoods were cut short or were unhealthy, we can pray that God would remind us of what it was like to have a trusting and childlike attitude. He can renew us and heal us so we can come to him today with that kind of trust and confidence.  

Find a  place and  time to pray

When I read this passage from the Sermon on the Mount literally, as an adult,  I had trouble understanding it. When Jesus told his disciples to go to their room to pray privately, he wasn’t saying, “Go to your room!”, like children are often told to do. He wasn’t telling them the only place they could pray was their room. While a room can be a place where we are sent to be isolated from others, I believe Jesus is talking about something different.   Remembering myself praying in the cool basement room, I think Jesus is saying, find a place to pray where you feel comfortable and can focus on communicating with God. 

Whatever your situation, find a place where you’ll have an uninterrupted time, where the surroundings allow you to have a conversation with your Father.
Who knows, maybe that’s a quiet spot at your local library or coffee shop, or someplace you like to walk.  It could be during a commute by bus or in a break room at work.  Maybe it’s a place in your home.  In winter, I pray at home in a quiet room where I can look out a window and sit in a favorite chair.  In summer, I like to pray in my garden or when out on a walk. Find a place where you can naturally engage in prayer. Shake off any pressure you might feel that you “should” find a time and place to pray.

God provides the reward

We live in a world that’s results oriented, where we are taught that we need to create achievable goals and have a plan to work toward them.
Jesus’ teaching is different. 

Prayer is conversation with a God who is right beside us and in us. We may pray and pray without seeing the responses we asked for in our requests. I love what Tim Keller said – ”God answers the prayers we would have prayed if we knew all he does.”  We may want the reward he promises to be what we have in mind, but we ask with limited understanding.  

When we pray, the reward is spending time with God, getting to know him, and allowing him to guide and transform us. As far as specific answers to prayer, those are in God’s hands, and we know that “no good thing does he withhold”, Psalm 8:11. Let’s ask him for help so we can come to him in prayer as beloved children, trusting him for the outcomes.

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