(Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.)
In Matthew 6:6, the Lord Jesus said:
“But you, when you pray, enter into your private room, and shut your door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
These words aren’t hard to understand, but we may find they’re much harder for us to put into practice.
Life today is full of things that consume our time and attention. Every day we spend hours on our cell phones or other devices, catching up on emails, texts, and social media. We also turn to them for amusement, distraction, or information. Our electronic “companions” are with us all the time, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep.
The trouble is that this constant connection to the world around us negatively affects our spiritual life.
When our time is eaten up and our minds are preoccupied, it’s impossible to have private times of undisturbed fellowship with the Lord. Yet the Lord’s word in Matthew 6 is clear: enter into your private room, shut your door, and pray.
The Lord Jesus is our pattern
In the Gospels, we can see numerous occasions where Jesus left the crowds and went away to be alone to pray. Matthew 14:23 says:
“And after He sent the crowds away, He went up to the mountain privately to pray. And when night fell, He was there alone.”
And Mark 1:35 says:
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still night, [Jesus] went out and went away to a deserted place, and there He prayed.”
Throughout His life on earth, Jesus seized the opportunity to be alone with the Father, praying in secret.
What a pattern Jesus is to us! The Lord left the bustling crowds, the pressing needs surrounding Him, and even His disciples to pray in private.
But how can we maintain a private prayer life in an age of such distraction?
We need to recognise the dangers of the modern world
To foster the practice of private prayer, we first need to recognise the particular danger our cell phones and other devices can pose to our spiritual life.
Life’s responsibilities keep us busy enough, and modern technology certainly makes life and work much easier and more efficient. The Bibles for Australia Blog can reach people all over the world because of modern technology, and we’re thankful for that.
But if we’re not careful, our smartphones, smartwatches, computers, and tablets, convenient as they are, can easily take up all our time and attention. Daily they offer more to read, more to watch, and more people to catch up with.
We all have to admit that because we’re constantly connected to our devices, often there’s no time left to spend with the Lord. The time we could spend in private prayer is replaced by viewing video after video, scrolling through endless social media feeds, or watching the latest movies and TV shows.
But if we’re aware of the danger to our spiritual life from present-day distractions, we’ll be on the alert and pay attention to how we spend our time.
We need to recognise the importance of private prayer
Second, we need to realise that having a hidden life with the Lord Jesus is essential if we want to have a meaningful Christian life. Getting away from life’s hustle and bustle to have private time with the Lord isn’t optional; our spiritual lives depend on it. Without it, our spiritual life will eventually dry up. It will be difficult for us to live for the Lord, love Him, or overcome temptation.
Having personal, even secret time with the Lord in private is invaluable. This is when we can confess our sins to Him, be spiritually nourished in His Word, and fellowship intimately with Him about anything on our heart. At times like this, we enjoy His nearness in our spirit. Calling on His name in such an atmosphere is so sweet. And unlike with other things, we can say that we never regret spending time like this with the Lord.
Once we recognise the hazard of modern distractions and see our need for alone time with the Lord, we can ask Him to help us to have a private prayer life. Surely He would be happy and faithful to answer our prayer!
5 points for practicing private prayer
In addition, here are five practical points that can help us establish and maintain a private prayer life.
1. Set a fixed time
Perhaps we’re waiting for that elusive “someday” when our lives are less busy and more peaceful; we think then we’ll be able to go and have time alone with the Lord. But realistically speaking, that “someday” will never come; busyness and distractions won’t decrease. So we have to be deliberate and definite about having private time with the Lord starting now.
We should choose a time of day when we can turn away from everything and spend quality time with Christ. The best time for this is early in the morning before the busy day begins, but we can also use our lunch break or pick a quiet time in the evening before we go to sleep. And once we set this time for private prayer, we should do our best not to miss it!
2. Find a “private room”
We may not have access to a deserted place or a mountain, but we can find a place away from people and things that distract us from prayer. Our “private room” could be our car, a room, a closet, our backyard—anywhere we can pray undisturbed.
3. Turn everything off
We should silence our phones, or even turn them off completely. It’s hard to develop a relationship or have a deep conversation with another person if we’re constantly glancing at our phones. It sends them the message that what we’re looking at is more important to us than they are.
The same is true with the Lord. That’s why it’s best to turn everything off or even leave our devices in another room so we can focus solely on Him. This allows us to listen to Him, talk with Him, and gaze at Him undisturbed.
4. Pray with the Bible
We may not be sure how to pray or what to say to the Lord, and our minds can wander. But we can use the words of the Bible to pray. All we need to do is open our Bible and use the words we read to compose our prayers.
For instance, let’s say we open to 1 John 1:7 and read, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.”
We can pray something like this: “Lord Jesus, I want to walk in the light. Lord, I want to be in the light so I can have fellowship with You and other believers. Thank You for Your precious blood. Hallelujah, it cleanses me from every sin!”
Perhaps at this point, the Lord shines on something we did or spoke that was displeasing to Him. We can immediately confess that sin and experience the cleansing of the blood of Jesus. By praying with His Word, we can speak to the Lord, and the Lord can speak to us.
5. Use a printed copy of the Bible
Using a printed Bible instead of a digital version is a good way to avoid the temptation of looking at something else on our phone. It also makes it easy to jot down notes and highlight portions we’re touched with during our time with the Lord.
If you don’t already have a physical Bible and you live in Australia, you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version from Bibles for Australia. This New Testament study Bible is full of wonderful notes and commentary that will enrich your reading of God’s Word. You can click here to place your order.
When we enter our private room and shut the door, we’ll enjoy the Lord’s sweet presence as we fellowship with Him in prayer and in the Word. He will supply us with His life each day so we can live a healthy, normal Christian life.