We believe we should pray, but how should we pray? What if any, are the basic guidelines? I have learned that there is always more to learn, even about the subject of prayer. I continue to read books about prayer and after more than thirty years of praying and walking with God, I am still learning. But, I also know that no matter how much there is to learn, there has to be a place to start!
When we turn to the New Testament, we discover that the first time prayer is discussed it is Jesus speaking. That should really come as no surprise since Jesus is the Master of prayer! No one ever had more confidence in prayer than Jesus. His prayer life is the ultimate example for all of us. His teaching on prayer is the perfect place to begin.
A Place for Prayer
In Matthew 6:5-13 the first instruction on prayer found in the New Testament teaches us some basic principles. Notice verse 6: “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.”
In high school I had a friend whose father’s garage looked as neat and orderly as the display shelves at Sacks 5th Avenue! He used to say, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” It may appear at first to be a non-essential, but when you think about it, having a place for prayer will make a lot of sense. Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room…” (v. 6). The word for “room” in verse six is a technical word in the Greek New Testament, which described a specific room in the Jewish home equivalent to an indoor garage. That’s why the King James Version calls this room “thy closet.” It was a storehouse where almost anything might be kept including grain or even small animals during extreme weather. It was not part of the main living area of the home. It was a place where a person could escape distractions and could also avoid becoming a distraction.
Years ago, at one of my summer jobs during seminary, I arrived early and went into the stock room for prayer. I put a chair in an aisle, and before business hours, I would kneel at that folding chair to pray. But I was not the only employee who arrived early! One day a man came around the corner to find me kneeling there and he asked, “What are you doing?” I must have looked a little strange and I am certain I embarrassed my co-worker. After that, I decided the aisle of the storeroom at a place of business where others are working isn’t a great place for private prayers!
Whatever place you find, it should be as distraction free as possible. It might be a room in your home or even sitting in your car with the engine turned off. It might be a remote park bench near your home or office, but find a place to which you can retreat, and make it your place of prayer.
The practical reasons for this might range from knowing where you can sit, stand or kneel comfortably while you pray, to being able to leave a Bible, notebook, journal or other personal items for review next time. The bottom line is this – if you have a definite place for prayer, you are much more likely to develop a habit of praying everyday. In fact, if you don’t have a time and place for prayer, you probably don’t yet have a consistent prayer life. The great prayer teacher, Andrew Murray wrote, “Everyone must have some solitary spot where they can be alone with God”1
. Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer (New Kingston, PA: Whitaker House Publishers, 1985), p. 10.