And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:5–9)
The moment when you come in, shut the door and leave the world outside is often a significant one. You let out a great sigh, and can let your guard down. You might punch the air, or sink into a chair and cry. Your feelings overflow and you can be yourself.
How significant, then, that when Jesus is instructing us in the manner of prayer he turns to the door closing as you enter your room. A place where you pray in secret, and be yourself. A place where the rest of the world isn’t watching, and there is no-one to impress. Or keep at a distance.
Except, of course, “your Father who sees in secret”. Your tears or your joy don’t go unnoticed, or unheard. Even at your loneliest you are not alone, even at your worst you are not unloved. Your Father in heaven sees, and hears. In the previous verse Jesus had said that those who impressed others were rewarded when they gained the notice of those around them. A greater reward awaits those who pray in secret: God notices.
One of the great joys of prayer is that it is available at any time and in any place. It is a work of the soul, and is not limited in any way. You can pray in the car, on the bus, in a queue or anywhere you find yourself. It is closer to you than your breath.