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. --Matthew 6:6
Is prayer public or private? In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus reminds his people that he is present as they gather in his name in numbers of two or more. We see here that he promises his presence in those times when his people gather for public worship. What does that mean then for those times when they are not together? What about those times Christian people are not able to gather as in a time of sickness? Jesus also speaks of personal prayer. Matthew records Jesus saying in his sermon on the mount, “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.” Jesus here directs his people to a private place in order to pray.
So then, is prayer public or private? For God’s children it is of course both! It is important to remember that God’s word teaches us we are called by his name. We are all baptized into Christ in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In that sense we have received our God’s name upon us by faith and so belong to him. This is the reason we can gather together to call upon his name. It is because he has claimed us as his own in his saving name placed upon us. So also his personal promises hold! He who promises that he will be with us till the end calls us to communicate in personal prayer with our Father in secret!
As his dear children we are privileged to call upon the name of the one who has called us to faith! The scriptures warn us never to neglect to gather for worship. But in a time when gathering together is impossible, we recall the promises of the one who gathers us to himself. God’s people pray in response to the hearing of his word while together and even while apart. Prayer is something we do corporately and also personally, publicly and also privately. It is the Christian’s privilege! So, in these times apart let us seek our Savior who will never leave nor forsake his own. Let us pray to our Father, calling on the name of the one who has called us to faith!