Just before Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, He made some mysterious statements.
“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.” (Mt 6:6-8 ESV)
Note that Jesus was not saying that we get a reward when we talk much while praying. What news, anyway, could surprise Him who is all-wise and all-knowing? However, Jesus promised a reward when we pray
(1) in our room
(2) shut the door and
(3) pray secretly
Well, it seems clear that He did not speak of praying in public, neither in a church building nor in front of others elsewhere. The prayer Jesus was speaking of here, is the mystical prayer which reveals the Father’s love for His children. Finally, such a prayer does not even need words. It is enough to bring into focus that God is HERE and NOW and that He is always listening. And if we realize that He knows about all things we might need and that He really cares for our needs, we might see that prayer indeed is about seeking God’s loving presence – only.
Trying to “translate” the features of the mystical prayer, one might describe them as follows.
(1) We should seek His presence without anyone around us who could distract us from focussing on Him.
(2) We should shut the door, not necessarily the real door of a room but especially our eyes which symbolize the door to the visible world. Actually, we are meeting the invisible God who can merely be seen with the eyes of the heart as soon as He has enlightened them.
(3) Nobody needs to know that we are praying to God – it is a secret between God and us, that means, all things that might happen in our mind, soul, and body when we get in touch with God are a secret between God and us. Indeed, it is a both mysterious and wonderful thing to encounter the eternal God through prayer.
What (this) prayer is NOT…
I. Prayer is not about Bible reading – although some verses might pop up in our mind too. When we concentrate our attention on the person of God or Jesus, we can experience real, spiritual life. If we rather prefer reading the Bible as a substitute for prayer, we will miss that life as Jesus stated,
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (Jn 5:39-40 ESV)
II. Prayer is not about lamenting or whining because we can get rid of our anxieties before we truly pray.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pt 5:6-7 ESV)
III. Prayer is not about praying what we think we ought pray for or about what others say we should pray. No rituals, no pre-fabricated prayers from others, no empty formulas will ever be able to bring us into His presence.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col 2:8 ESV)
“[…] human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col 2:22-23 ESV)
IV. Prayer is not about telling God what and when He ought to do all things in our sight, not even about telling Him how He should change us so that we could be more godly (in our own eyes). All those changes in our hearts – that is, healing old wounds and taking away any covetousness and evil desires – which God wants to do inside us happen while getting in touch with His Spirit, that means, while praying. It is never necessary to tell Him what we still lack. He knows it and He will change us – in His time. Not before…
Okay, I admit, it does not appear to be really good news at the very first moment since our busy minds which love to make blah blah want TO DO something as well, don’t they… Alas, there is nothing to do but to wait for God who, eventually, will calm our restless minds with His peace. And with His joy, His love, and patience, and faith, and hope, and with all good things imaginable.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (Js 1:17 ESV)
Note again: All things come from Him, even the possibility to find Him through prayer.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Mt 7:7-8 ESV)
Our “job” is only to ask Him to help us and to seek Him, again and again. Daily. It is not necessary to seek Him longer than five minutes a day in the beginning. The longing for more of His presence will finally come from Him as well.
However, five minutes should be possible, right? 😉