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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them… (Matthew 6:6-7)
I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that there is much more to most things than meets the eye—prayer for instance. For years I was under the impression that prayer consisted of closing your eyes, bowing your head, and talking to God. The pictures and images of prayer that I carried around in my heart and mind, quite frankly, left much to be desired. Prayer was not an activity I was particularly drawn to or excited about. My guess is that this had much more to do with my definition of prayer than it did with the real practice of prayer. It wasn’t until much later in life that I began to see that maybe my definition of prayer was far too small and rigid. Prayer wasn’t so much about performing a duty as it was about building a wonderfully intimate relationship. Prayer was not simply throwing all the words I can muster at the unseen God, but it—at its very core—has always been about union with the God who lives within us. I think that’s what Jesus is really getting at in Matthew 6; he is trying to recapture the true meaning and practice of prayer, which is simply being with God.
Don’t stand on street corners, don’t babble on and on; prayer is much more intimate and personal than that. Instead go into your closet—that space where true intimacy is possible—and shut the door. Leave everyone and everything else on the outside; I want it to be just me and you. I want us to be together in a way and a place where I have your undivided attention. I have so much I want to say to you; so much of me that I want you to know. And this space and time is the place where that is most possible; the place where I can have the deepest desires of my heart fulfilled, which is just to be with you, my Beloved. Come inside where things are still and quiet and you can hear every whisper of my loving Spirit deep within your heart and soul. That’s prayer.
"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:6 The Message)