THE WHERE OF PRAYER
Prayer – all types of prayer – both public and private are essential for the effectual Christian¹. But when and where is the best time to pray? The answer to that question speaks to the heart of nexus prayer, and is simple and obvious. Or is it?
In Ephesians 6:18, the Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray at all times and on every occasion.” Indeed, Paul comes right out and commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to actually “pray without ceasing.” Now, clearly, he was not speaking of a daily, incessant, on-our-knees, eyes-closed, and head-bowed type of praying, but rather of maintaining an attitude of prayer throughout the day. (Sometimes, we are not intended to take the bible quite so literally.) So, there’s no right time or bad time for prayer; we should pray at every opportunity. And lest we forget (with thanks to Rudyard Kipling), I’ve mentioned here many times that nexus prayer is intended to supplement, never replace other techniques and forms of prayer in the course of our weekly schedule and daily routine.
As to the where of prayer, I highly recommend finding a sacred space. But that said, although we should take the admonition Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:6 to pray in a certain way seriously, we should also not take this verse literally. In the 17th century English of King James, it reads:
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” In today’s vernacular, we would say it more like this: “But you, when you pray to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to God secretly, and your heavenly Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
In fact, many modern bible versions translate it in much the same way. But to be honest, the context and point that Jesus is making about prayer in his Sermon on the Mount² is not really about when or where we should pray, but how we should pray. Simply stated, he is teaching us that we should not pray in such a way that brings unnecessary attention to ourselves. If we do, then that’s our reward. Instead, Jesus is teaching that prayer is best done privately in our “inner room”– in the privacy of our own home, for example, rather than on a busy street corner where we can be seen by men.
But perhaps there is yet a deeper meaning also hidden in this teaching on prayer by Jesus. (He was, after all, speaking primarily to a group comprised largely of Jews, and did often teach with parables, riddles, and curious questions.) The likelihood that there is a mystical meaning embedded in Matthew 6:6 seems all the clearer to me when I read yet another passage from the Apostle Paul, this time in I Corinthians 3:16, and what I consider to be at the heart, the essence of nexus prayer.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
When Jesus speaks of entering our “inner room” for prayer, is he referencing the Holy of Holies³ that was located within the Tabernacle of Moses³ and later in Solomon’s Temple³? I think so. Today, that “inner room”–that Holy of Holies–is found in the deepest core of our soul. And as we know from Exodus 25–31, 35–40 and from 1 Kings 6:1, both the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple were the residence or dwelling place of God here on Earth.
Time and space do not allow us to look more closely at all the possible parallels in this post, but for now, I want to at least point out that the physical design (God was the architect) of both the Tabernacle and the Temple included an Outer Court, an Inner Court (The Holy Place), and the Holy of Holies (Most Holy Place) – the residence of God’s ineffable name and presence. We could also examine other examples of God’s creation to see his Divine design: the three heavens (Heaven, Outer Space, and Earth’s atmosphere); Earth (Core, Mantel, Crust); the Triune Holy God (Father, Son, and Spirit); Man and Woman (Body, Soul, and Spirit) to name just a few of the more obvious examples. Which leads me back to the heart of nexus prayer and the real point of this post.
Know this. The Holy Spirit of God lives within every Christian and is only a breath or heartbeat away. It is the ultimate truth that is expressed in Matthew 1:22,23 and the meaning of Emmanuel – God with Us. This Holy of Holies exists today deep within our soul, and it is that “secret place” from which emanates “the still, small voice of God” that we are so intently listening to during nexus prayer. Like the historical and biblical Tabernacle or Temple, our Temple has an outer court with its noise, busyness, and problems; an inner court that houses our mind with its requisite memories, thoughts, sins, and distractions; and the holy of holies–that inner most place in our soul where God dwells and waits to commune with us. And how is that accomplished?
“Be still and know that I am God,” the Psalmist declares in Psalm 46:10.
NOTES & REFERENCES
Lesson for Saint Dunstan’s Nexus Prayer Group – Sunday, Jan 14th, 2018
1 Effectual Christian – Like the Apostle Paul (see Ephesians 3:7)
2 Sermon on the Mount | Matthew Chapters 5-7
3 Holy of Holies | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
4 Tabernacle of Moses | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
5 Solomon’s Temple | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia
4 Photo Credit: Plain House by Matt Palmer | Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.