Jesus told us, “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” (Matthew 6:6).
Now, he said this as a corollary to avoid being showy and “like the hypocrites” when you pray (Matthew 6:5). Still, this verse has been taken as a manifesto to be undistracted in prayer behind a closed door. This isn’t a bad idea. It worked for 2,000 years. Not so much anymore though.
For 2,000 years, the most private and undistracted place was behind the closed door. Now, the noise has relocated indoors. If our computers and devices are near, it’s the worst place to try to pray. Walking through Times Square is less distracting than sitting alone in a room full of technology.
This loss of private prayer is affecting the church.
The Christian Prayer Life
It’s been said that if you want to humble any pastor, ask him about his prayer life. The sad truth is that most Christians, even pastors, spend more time reading articles, watching ESPN or playing games on their smartphones than they do in prayer.
When I compare my prayer life with that of the spiritual greats, I wonder sometimes if I actually know the same God.
The Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus’ immense prayer life. Paul’s prayer life bleeds through every part of his letters. James, the most prominent pillar of the early church was called “the man with camel’s knees” because of the price his interminable prayer life exacted on the skin of his knees.
The writings of Ignatius, Polycarp and Irenaeus are bathed in prayer. One wonders if Augustine or Aquinas ever stopped praying. Luther prayed three hours per day. Calvin prayed during five set-apart times of the day. George Mueller prayed two to three hours a day and recorded more than 50,000 answered prayers in his journals. Hudson Taylor awoke in the middle of the night to pray from two to four in the morning so that he wouldn’t be disturbed!