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What Is a Prayer Closet, and What Do We Accomplish There?

What Is a Prayer Closet, and What Do We Accomplish There?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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” (Matthew 6:5-6).

Several years ago, there was a highly acclaimed movie that came out called “War Room,” which centered on the importance of the personal prayer closet. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend renting it tonight and watching with your whole family! 

In the movie, a woman is confronted with a crisis which forces her to get truly serious about her relationship with God, and to experience the power of prayer to change things. She takes the King James Scripture translation literally (...when thou prayest, enter into thy closet...), and empties out her bedroom closet of clothes, shoes, jewelry and other personal items, and replaces them with a chair, post-it notes with Scriptures and family photos. 

Thereafter, the movie revolves around her regular and routine visits to this prayer closet, now effectively transformed into a spiritual “war room,” where she fights against the enemy's attack on her family.

I promise you that after you see this inspirational movie, you will consider cleaning out your closet. But before you box up your coats and shoes, you should understand a few basic things about what a prayer closet is and what actually should happen there. 

Where We Meet with God

With all due respect to the traditional King James translation, most modern versions don't use “closet” anymore, but rather “room,” “private room” or “inner room.” The Greek word is tameion, which simply means an “inner storage chamber or secret room.” We might describe it today as a safety deposit box or vault. It describes that place where one's most valuable possessions and treasure can be kept safe. 

So Jesus is telling us in Matthew 6:6, that we all need a place where we regularly and routinely meet with our most valued treasure in this life... our heavenly Father! He is the One whose resources never run out or run dry, the One who can solve any problem we have and deliver us from every demonic attack. There is nothing more valuable to us than our relationship with God. 

Where We Become Vulnerable

Over time, this word translated as “closet” was used to describe a bedchamber where a husband and wife were able to be intimate. The very act of disrobing makes a person vulnerable and exposed to their spouse. So the idea of Matthew 6:6 also includes going to a place where we let down our guard before God and allow Him to examine our hearts without shame. 

It's a place where we cannot hide our hurts, lie about our failures or pretend to have all the answers.

Where We Change Clothes 

King James' residence in Edinburg, Scotland, is reported to have an interior room in the master bedroom. Much like a large walk-in closet of today, it’s where the king changed his clothes.  

So to extend the illustration, our “prayer closet” of Matthew 6:6 will be a place where we experience change; it's where we go to remove the soiled rags of this life and be clothed in His righteous image and His spiritual armor. We exchange clothes of fear for the shield of faith, the clothes of confusion for the helmet of salvation, and the clothes of hurt and shame for the breastplate of righteousness.

Ultimately, the private time we spend with God in our “prayer closet” will pave the way for public success. I promise you, you may walk in like Clark Kent, but you will come out like Superman!

But Why Do We Need a “Prayer Closet”?

So by now it should be pretty clear that you don't really need to hire an architect to redesign your bedroom closet. The prayer closet is not as much about “place” as it is about attitude and commitment. Your particular prayer closet could indeed be a cleaned-out closet, or a small guest room. It could be the man cave or the she shed. Perhaps it's an attic or bonus room or a even a particular chair in the corner of the living room. It can be wherever you chose to spend time with God in prayer, without the interruption of family or daily life. 

So why should we select one, dedicated spot to become our “prayer closet”?

1. We Need to Shut the Door

“...go into your room, close the door…” (Matthew 6:6).

The real power of the prayer closet comes from claiming a space that you can inoffensively close off the entrance of others (children, pets, phone and social media notifications), and get quiet enough to hear His still, small voice speaking wisdom and direction. It also protects you from being hushed by the unbelieving attitudes of others, as you stand and loudly declare in faith the promises of God over your situation. In short, closed doors make for a more powerful and successful prayer life.

Whether we realize it or not, one of the primary ways the enemy brings destruction into our lives is through constant interruptions and distraction in our pursuit of God. Any of this sound familiar?

- I would pray... but I’m exhausted trying to make ends meet.

- I would pray... but the kids keep pestering me.

- I would pray... but I really need to study.

- I would pray... but this business meeting just came up.

- I would pray... but my husband needs my attention.

- I would pray... but I have a deadline I just can't miss.

- I would pray... but I don't have enough time in the morning as it is.

- I would pray...but I must keep up with social media to stay relevant.

Short answer? No, no, no... just no! Actually, I must check in with my heavenly Father and get His power and wisdom for every task I need to accomplish in the day. I need to confirm that He likes what I am doing, and that I get the inside scoop on what's trending in Heaven. I need to be filled with supernatural energy to perform with excellence in life, and to be a source of strength to my family and children. And to do all that, I must shut the door on every distraction when I go to God in prayer.

A woman praying in a hallway, Christians must have faith

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Kieferpix

2. We Need Private Time for Public Success

“...pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).

Too often when we pray openly around other people, we become self-conscious and spend more time trying to impress them with our words, than we do truly pressing into God. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about: those long, arduous prayers said in King James English... to bless the church potluck lunch! These are the modern equivalent of the hypocrite's prayers of Matthew 6:5:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

True prayer is not a time to impress people – it’s meant to lock in and join forces with God; to wage war against an enemy which seeks our defeat and destruction. And as Jesus said, it's what we do in private that paves the way for what people will see in public.

One of my life mentors once told me, “If you want the anointing on your life, make sure your private time in prayer exceeds your public time on the platform.” I believe it's the foundation of a Christian's success in life, not just in ministry. And here's a little observation: it seems you can always tell who has a powerful prayer life and who doesn’t, simply by the fruit that is evidenced in their life! Selah.

Prayer is the spiritual discipline that is practiced in private, but the rewards are manifested in public. It manifests in our character, our wisdom, our attitude, our blessings, our joy, our favor, our peace and our power! Jesus said we need a “prayer closet” because that private place paves the way for our public success!

3. We Want to Know God’s Will for Our Lives

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Clearly, our loving heavenly Father has amazing things for each of us to do and experience in this life. And if I were to ask, I believe everyone would want to know those plans, so we can make appropriate decisions to cooperate with His will. We know intuitively and from Scripture that God’s will for us is “good and acceptable and perfect,” so we really should do all we can to discern what His will is! However, between us and the manifestation of God’s good plans there is a cross that we must bear.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).

God’s good plans for us are often dependent on denying ourselves and doing things God’s way. What’s that look like for you? Is it...

- a habit you need to kick?

- an offense you need to forgive?

- a relationship you need to exit?

- a discipline you need to develop?

- an act of obedience you need to practice?

- a wound you need to allow God to heal?

What is it that is standing in the way of God’s will for your life? And more importantly, how can you surrender your will in that area to God’s will, especially when everything in you doesn’t want to do it God’s way? 

Surrender through prayer.

Run to that prayer closet, shut the door and ask God to do heart surgery on you so that you can say, “Not my will but Yours, Lord Jesus!” It’s in that place that you will receive the supernatural help that you need to fight that battle and every future one that you face in life. His supernatural help comes when I enter my prayer closet and meet with the Source of my strength, and the strength of my life – God, my Father!

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How Can We Embrace the Power of Prayer?

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Tinnakorn Jorruang

Frank SantoraFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit Photo by Michele Roman.