In the past I’ve taught that because of the demands of making a living, we may have a “secret closet of prayer” anywhere. It could be in the car, on the bus, during a break at work. This is true in measure, but there is more to it. The Greek word for “closet” in this verse means “a private room, a secret place.” This was clear to Jesus’ listeners because the homes in their culture had an inner room that served as a sort of storage closet. Jesus’ command was to go into that secret closet and shut the door behind you. There you will enter into the kind of prayer that cannot happen in church or with a prayer partner.
Jesus set the example for this as he went to private places to pray. No one had a busier life; he was constantly pressed by the needs of those around him with so little time to himself, but we are told, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there” (Matthew 14:23).
We all have excuses for why we don’t pray alone. We say we have no private place or no time to do it. Thomas Manton, a godly Puritan writer, wrote, “We say we have no time to pray secretly. We yet have time for all else: time to eat, to drink, for children, yet not time for what sustains all else. We say we have no private place, but Jesus found a mountain, Peter a rooftop, the prophets a wilderness. If you love someone, you will find a place to be alone.”
Do you see the importance of setting your heart to pray in a secret place? It is not about legalism or bondage but about love. It is about God’s goodness toward us. He sees what’s ahead and knows we need tremendous resources and daily replenishing. All of that is found in the secret place with him.