5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.
My commute to and from work lasts anywhere from a quick 23-minute drive to over an hour, depending on what traffic decides to do for the day. I find various ways to fill up that time, but I have also found this to be an opportunity to turn off all the outside noise and pray. I pray for things at work, for family, for friends…for whatever comes to mind during that commute.
Recently, these prayers have been for friends who are leading as Nashville finds its way from the tornadoes in early March and the COVID-19 crisis. A few weeks before that, I was praying for a friend who was living in the unknown-in-between, waiting for results from a doctor. A year ago, it was for friends who were having their first babies. Eighteen months ago, it was for my family as we received news of a family member’s health issue we weren’t expecting. Job promotions, new calls to ministry, financial unknowns…we are constantly handed new scenarios in our lives and the lives of those around us. We have the opportunity to pray for them because Jesus has entrusted them to us.
Sometimes these situations lead us to corporate prayer. The Lord desires us to share our joys and burdens with one another. We’re called to it as believers, and we have the gift of sharing in those things with one another (Matthew 18:19-20; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42; Galatians 6:2).
But, as we see in this passage in Matthew, we are also called to private prayer. “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret” (v. 6). It is in these quiet times alone with the Lord that all pretense and distractions from things around us fall away, and we have the opportunity to focus solely on the things the Lord brings to our mind. It is these times—when we don’t know what to say—that we can trust the Holy Spirit to be interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27), and we can sit quietly in a posture of humility before the Lord.
People who know me well would tell you I have a lot of words. I like to talk, I like to share, I like to discuss. But sometimes my words don’t seem like enough—or I can’t gather my thoughts well enough to feel I am doing justice to the things I want to bring before the Lord. I think we can all feel that way sometimes.
But we are given this promise: “Your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him” (v. 8). That doesn’t mean He doesn’t want to hear from us—it just means that when we don’t have the words, it is okay. It is okay for our prayers to be tears rolling down our faces, with our hands turned up in a position of receiving. He can handle both our quietest moments and our loudest screams to heaven. He just wants our hearts to be prepared for Him, instead of being concerned about the eyes and ears of those around us.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Where do you find yourself praying most often? How do you find yourself praying most often?
- Seek ways to remember the things the Lord brings to your mind during prayer so you can see how He is working to answer them. Maybe use a journal or a keep a notecard in your Bible.