The author of this devotional booklet I’m reading offers instructions for prayer. Today he says to find a place or environment to pray without distraction or interruption. He realizes this will be difficult for some and tells of a lawyer who prayed on his daily commute be learning how to become deaf to distractions. He imagined himself meeting with Jesus and built “a chapel in his soul” so he could spend time in prayer on a train.
Jesus said, “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.” Mothers with young children know that the only way they can escape behind a closed door is when their little ones are asleep!
As an aside, Jesus also offered instruction in what to pray, not using “empty phrases” thinking we will be “heard for our many words” but to follow this pattern . . .
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:6–15)
I’ve read this many times, but this morning noticed the priorities. First, honor our relationship with God and each other. It is “our Father” not “my Father.” Then exalt who and where He is. Ask regarding His rule and will, knowing He is sovereign. Finally, ask for daily needs, daily forgiveness, and daily protection from temptation and evil. Jesus emphasizes the need for forgiveness by repeating its importance.
As for a place to pray, Jesus went to lonely places in the wilderness and on mountains. That would be nice, but not possible for everyone. However, it does point out that I can pray outdoors.
Isaiah prayed in the temple where he “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1) I can pray in my church, a place of worship.
Moses talked to God in the wilderness beside a burning bush that was “burning, yet it was not consumed” and God called to him out of the bush saying, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground . . . . I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” From there, God gave Moses instruction for the important part he would play in the history of God’s people. (Exodus 3:2–11) I can pray in the wilderness as Moses did.
Samuel was just a small boy asleep in the temple of the Lord when the Lord called to him. At first he thought it was the voice of the priest, but was told otherwise and to return to his bed. Eventually, the boy responded with “Speak, for your servant hears” and communed with God from the place where he slept. (1 Samuel 3:1–10) I can pray lying on my bed.
The Bible has a host of other examples. My preferred place is to pray while I am walking. This helps me shut out distractions, particularly if I go outside. When I stay in, my to-do list, a ringing telephone, and a host of other things tug at me. The only problem with walking outside is that I tend to pray out loud, and that can gather unwanted attention.
As I read these and other passages this morning, I’m thinking that having a special place might help in setting a habit, but what about those times when I cannot go to that place, or am on holidays? For that reason, I like the lawyer’s idea of building a chapel in his soul. Then, not matter where I am, I am taking my place of prayer with me.