PRAYING IN THE CLOSET
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)
It’s funny what you remember from childhood. This verse has stuck with me (as have many others), but I remember it from the King James version of the Bible (as I remember many others) because that is how I learned it. It that version, it says, “…go into your closet.” That phrase always bothered me tremendously. I didn’t want to pray in my closet. There was no light in there, it was always crammed full of stuff, especially on the floor, as I lived in the days prior to closet organizers and I’m not sure I would have known how to use them if they had been presented to me.
Anyway, I could not for the life of me see why Jesus wanted me to spend time with him in my CLOSET! I actually did try it a couple of times and it freaked me out, quite honestly. All I could think about was the fact that I really didn’t spend much time cleaning in there and I wasn’t sure what that might mean as I sat on the floor trying to talk to Jesus about important things. The things that kept popping into my mind were spiders and silverfish!
And the “in secret” part bothered me a little, as well. I quite understood that Jesus was against the false piety of those who only prayed to show off themselves, so to speak. I had, even as a very young person, seen that in my own church—those pompous men (women weren’t allowed to pray out loud in the church when I was a child; they had to ‘keep quiet.’) would drone on and on in that sterterous tone that they felt appropriate to praying in the church.
I am sure you know what I mean. It’s that tone of voice that doesn’t sound one bit like they do in REAL LIFE. I could never understand why they would talk like that if they were REALLY talking to the Jesus that I knew—the Jesus who was supposed to be our friend and Savior. It sounded to me like they were talking to a crowd at a political rally—folks they were trying to convince of something that might not be true.
I understood that we weren’t suppose to pray like that. But what did it mean to be secret about it? Why did we have to hide?
This morning during my devotional with my husband, this scripture came to my mind and I had an entirely new feeling and interpretaion about it because of another conversation that came up while we were reading.
I think these phrases: going into our room or closet, praying in secret do not mean what I took them to mean—the literal meaning that I gave to them as the younger person I was then. Perhaps as you might be interrpreting them now, whatever age you have attained.
Jesus doesn’t want us to posture when we pray, certainly. He wants to hear our heart. And corporate prayer, praying in front of others is fine as long as we remember to whom we are praying and why. But I think he used these phrases for a very specific reason. I think he wanted us to go to a very quiet place, an alone place, a ‘secret’ place, if you will, not that the world won’t know what we are doing—but that we won’t know what the world is doing—nor will we care.
“…and our Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward [us].”
Until we are alone with God, shutting out the noise and distractions of the world, we can’t hear him. But if we take the time to find a place where this intimacy can occur, he will meet us there, in that secret, sacred place and our reward will be sweet communion.
Trust me. I found the ‘closet.’
“Do I seek signs of the Kingdom or do I perceive God’s rule? The newbirth gives a new power of vision whereby I begin to discern God’s rule. His rule was there all the time, but true to His nature; now that I have received His nature I can see His rule.”
The “new power of vision whereby I begin to discern God’s rule” is the best way I know to describe what it has been like to realize how blind I have been to some of the sin in my life in the past—like still thinking intermarriage was a bad idea somehow. How could I believe this while believing that all people were children of God—loved equally by him and as believers in Christ, given equal standing in the Kingdom and especially with Jesus? Or holding on to hurt rather than giving the grace and forgiveness that had been showered on me by a loving Savior.
"His rule was there all the time…now that I have received his nature, I can see his rule." I also understand Chambers saying that John 3:9 does not mean that we cannot sin, "just that we "need not." God still gives us that wondrous and horrid option of choice—each and everyday—to "perceive God’s rule"—to accept and act on his nature in us, or, not to—by choice. To see as Jesus sees, or to turn away and act on our own—to commit whatever sin it may be that is not in the nature of God.
For me, now, the things, the sins I must guard against are two-fold: my need to take back control of self and to expect a level of perfection in others that I know I cannot reach in myself—that lack of grace and forgiveness for their inadequacy or their harm to me, my family or others.
These things are my sins revealed, among others, by my Abba, in love and forgiven after his chastisement and my repentance.
But old habits resurface unbidden and daily prayers are necessary to keep watch on my human tendency to let my eyes wander from where they should be. I need not sin and it is in my constant awareness now not to sin, as those particular things have been revealed to me. But I am sure that there are others not yet revealed and I pray for such revelation—”to discern God’s rule” in whatever way he chooses to reveal it to me.
I know that when I fail, it is a grief to my Lord. But it is now for only a short moment that this is so; for my repentance is immediate, as is the joy that follows. Abba’s child is learning and this is a source of boundless joy as well!
Thank you Holy Spirit for guiding me more and more into the nature and discernment of Christ.
Trust in the Lord
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Amen and amen!
I BELIEVE, LORD
Do we believe God is who He says He is? If I believe, then I have to accept and believe His promises—all of them; and I have to submit to His will—every day; and I have to obey what He requires of me—always.
If I believe.
It seems like a great deal. I either believe Jesus died for me, forgave me, loves me unconditionally and because of that, I am nothing without Him. Indeed, I owe Him everything I have or ever will have–I either believe—or I don’t.
If I believe, I must serve him—unconditionally. If I don’t believe, I owe him nothing, have nothing and will have nothing for all eternity.
I choose to believe. I decided to trust that God is who He has said and does say He is. I choose to believe that His promises have been and are still true. I choose to believe that total submission to His will is the only way to salvation. I believe that ongoing repentance of my sin, His forgiveness and continuing obedience to what He requires of me is the natural, daily result of the enormous gift of His undeserved grace.
I believe, Lord. I BELIEVE!
THINKING OF SUICIDE?
Please, think again. Suicide is a poor solution to the pain you are experiencing. It doesn’t matter how long or how intense the pain may be. IT WILL END. SUICIDE IS PERMANENT!!
PLEASE, PLEASE TELL SOMEONE YOU ARE HURTING!!
My life has been extraordinary since I decided NOT to take my life and do away with it. It hasn’t all been perfect—far from it. But it has been filled with beauty and wonder and laughter—and times of pain. But I wouldn’t trade it for what I have learned about myself and other people and my faith and how I got where I was when I wanted to end it all. That took time—time I would not have had if I had ended it all.
PLEASE, PLEASE TELL SOMEONE YOU ARE HURTING!!
Contact me through my ASK. Tell a friend you trust. Call a suicide hot line.
Or contact newspring.cc/care and we will be glad to talk with you about anything.
But PLEASE—don’t take your life away from the rest of us. We love you.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF ‘PERFECTION’
It was a huge burden to think I had to be in control—to try to manage perfection. What an impossible load to place on anyone—especially on a child. To believe that one isn’t good enough is one thing. To think oneself flawed and displeasing is horrible. To believe oneself unloved is too much to bear. But to not know what to do to become good enough, pleasing, lovable—perfect—how does one live like that without becoming dysfunctional and incapable of living at all? One doesn’t. One becomes dysfunctional—or dies. I nearly did. Or…
One finds another human being willing to love unconditionally. To wait expectantly. To give unremittingly and share a growing faith over a lifetime together until the living becomes not only functional, but in retrospect, a functional reality that was useful and purposeful. A life that was loving and giving and life-affirming and sustaining and in communion with the Creator. The Creator who knew all along that He was in control of this marriage union so strong that nothing would break it—or the union forged with Him in the process. Nothing would cause it to become anything but what he wanted it to be—for me—or for us.
It takes a marriage including God to make it unbreakable and to make it work. Because both humans in a marriage bring brokeness to it. We are flawed human beings—selfish, full of pride, hurt and sin. It is only by learning (sometimes in His infinite wisdom—learning together) that we must put Christ FIRST in our marriage, that we thereby learn how to love ourselves and our spouses and make our marriages the very best they can be.
We didn’t learn this until late in our marriage. But we learned it. And over the last seven years, our marriage has become more than we could have ever asked or imagined it could be. God is like that. And we are grateful.
In March, as I have written elsewhere, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our first date. On August 5th, we celebrated our 47th anniversary. We are two very different people than we were 47 years ago. We are two very different people than we were seven years ago. I am most definitely a very different person than I was as a damaged and confused child who grew up thinking I had to be perfect to earn back the love I thought I had lost from my earthly father.
How grateful and blessed I am to be whose I am today—imperfect, ‘but striving on toward perfection,’ loved by the man God chose for me and with whom he wants me to spend such an amazing life–and loved by both an earthly and Heavenly Father.
The best is yet to come!