5 And when thou prayest thou shalt not do as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. (3 Nephi 13:5-6)
Jesus’s command to pray secretly is one I’ve historically had troubles with. I’m not sure why. Usually I interpret praying in secret to mean praying inside my head rather than out loud. (I think I’ve had a some kind of notion that if I pray internally then the devil won’t know and won’t be able to use my prayers against me, but this gives too much respect to the devil, so I’m trying to get rid of it..) Unfortunately, inside-my-head prayers often die away into unfocused daydreaming.
Every once in a while, I become so frustrated with a problem that I find myself bursting out with a spontaneous prayer out loud. I’m alone a lot, so when it comes out, it is essentially secret prayer.
I’ve noticed that when I pray out loud, the answers seem to come in very obvious ways, in a manner so open as to feel miraculous.. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve seen it happen often enough that I have to testify of it.
Just an example: Last week I was getting very frustrated with my blogging process and how composition was degenerating into an unproductive cycle of time-wasting. Out of desperation I prayed out loud, though if you’d heard me, you would probably have said I was venting. A few hours later, a woman in our ward called me just to find out how I was doing because she had been thinking about me all day(!!!), so I spilled it all to her, and in the subsequent conversation, she gave me some suggestions that answered my prayers! (insert angel chorus here) Coincidence? Not on your life.
After having a few experiences like this, I’ve come to the conclusion that when we pray in secret, we are not really alone. Heavenly Father is there with us and listening as Jesus said. Even if we can’t see Him, He’s there and He listens. It’s kind of odd to think of Heavenly Father hiding Himself in invisibility; it sounds like the stuff of fiction, invisibility cloaks and all that.
For me, secret prayer takes faith. It takes faith to speak to God in a room that looks empty and trust that He hears even when I can’t see Him or hear a response with my ears. Thankfully, I can hear Him with my heart. I feel my soul stir with a little twinge of joy and I know He got the message.
What are your experiences with secret prayer? Is it hard for you? Why or why not?