Matthew 6:5–9; Mark 9:43–50; 1 Corinthians 5:9–13 (read online ⧉)
Prayer closets are a thing for some people. They have taken Jesus’ words in such a way to step into a private and personal space to pray to God. This is not a bad thing. Most do not pray solely in a prayer closet. If they do, that means it is quite difficult to pray with and over others, which we are called to do.
Jesus’ words were primarily a counterpoint to the ritualistic attention gathering prayer performed by so-called pious people. Their piety was merely a mask for the selfish desire for human acclaim. By providing a very private alternative to the public activities, Jesus was making the point that prayer is a relational activity between a person and God, rather than an act to be seen. One thing to keep in mind though is that in First Century housing a private room was unlikely for poorer people, who primarily shared communal spaces, so Jesus’ words aren’t inherently what we often interpret them to mean.
The other aspect of this is the other stuff we keep in that “prayer” closet. The prayer closet we should be using to bring requests, needs, praises, gratitude and so on is often contaminated by the darkness of our hearts.
Jesus’ harsh words about cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye or cutting off your foot aren’t really about the hand, the eye, or the foot. It is about the heart. What is in our hearts that we try to hide in our closets?
Another way to think of this is our “Christian” walk. We look good on the outside, but perhaps we are merely whitewashed tombs who look clean and fresh but are filled with death and decay. This may seem harsh. However, each of us has certain things that we try to contain that come out of the darkness and wounds of our lives.
Perhaps, if we used the closet for prayer rather than unmentionables, and put our unmentionables out on the streets, we might not have to cut off our hands or feet or pluck out our eyes.
The real question is what are the things that are in our closets. Paul’s list seems pretty straightforward, yet it is a list with a spirit, rather than a list of crimes. The list is more about the heart of the sinner, rather than the act itself. Yes, the act is bad. It comes from the heart.
We are not immune to any of these crimes. How they are expressed may be different in each of our lives. It could be the manner of speech we have with our interested gender. It could be how we treat and interact with others. It could be just how we look at another as a step toward our goal, rather than a child of God.
Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Break our hearts for the darkness in them. Heal our hearts from the wounds the bind. Let us be your free and holy children. Amen.
1) [This is a private and personal question] What has God brought to mind about yourself in this? How will we confront and redeem it?
2) How does hiding the bad stuff in our prayer closet affect our relationship with God, especially our prayer life? How might this affect our lives with others?
3) Submission to Jesus Christ (yesterday’s, 11 June 2020, devotional) includes the stuff in the closet. Why do we often not want to submit it to Jesus Christ?