But you, when you pray, enter into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.
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Solomon says, “Before prayer, prepare thy soul.” This he does who comes to prayer doing alms; for good works stir up the faith of the heart, and give the soul confidence in prayer to God. Alms then are a preparation for prayer, and therefore the Lord after speaking of alms proceeds accordingly to instruct us concerning prayer.
He calls them hypocrites, because feigning that they are praying to God, they are looking round to men; and He adds, “they love to pray in the synagogues.”.
But I suppose that it is not the place that the Lord here refers to, but the motive of him that prays; for it is praiseworthy to pray in the congregation of the faithful, as it is said, “in your Churches bless ye God.” Whoever then so prays as to be seen of men does not look to God but to man, and so far as his purpose is concerned he prays in the synagogue. But he, whose mind in prayer is wholly fixed on God, though he pray in the synagogue, yet seems to pray with himself in secret. “Inthe corners of the streets,” namely, that they may seem to be prayingretiredly, and thus earn a twofold praise, both that they pray, and that they pray in retirement.
He forbids us to pray in an assembly with the intent of being seen of that assembly, as He adds, “that they may be seen of men.” He that prays therefore should do nothing singular that might attract notice; as crying out, striking his breast, or reaching forth his hands.
It is a good thing to be drawn away from the thought of empty glory, but especially in prayer. For our thoughts are apt to stray of themselves; if thenwe address ourselves to prayer with this disease upon us, how shall we understand those things that are said by us?.
“Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward,” for every man where he sows there he reaps, therefore they who pray because of men, not because of God, receive praise of men, not of God.
That none should be there present save he only who is praying, for a witness impedes rather than forwards prayer.
We may also understand by “the door of the chamber,” the mouth of the body; so that we should not pray to God with loudness of tone, but with silent heart, for three reasons. First, because God is not to be gained by vehement crying, but by a right conscience, seeing He is a hearer of the heart; secondly, because none but thyself and God should be privy to your secret prayers; thirdly, because if you pray aloud, you hinder any other from praying near you. Cassian, Collat. ix, 35: Also we should observe close silence in our prayers, that our enemies, who are ever most watchful to ensnare us at that time, may not know the purport of our petition.
He said not ‘shall freely give thee,’ but, “shall reward thee;” thus He constitutes Himself your debtor.