Which room in your home would you be least likely to invite an acquaintance to visit? Perhaps a closet or a storage room, a place that may not be as well organized as the rest of the house, and which, in any event, is not intended for entertaining.
The prophet Alma quoted the words of Zenos regarding prayer. He thanked God for hearing his prayer in four settings, of increasing privacy: the wilderness, his field, his house, and finally his closet (Alma 33:4-7).
Alma’s companion, Amulek, applied this scripture to the lives of their listeners:
Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household…
But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness (Alma 34:20-21, 26).
Jesus later used similar imagery during His Sermon on the Mount. Warning his listeners against praying with the goal to be “seen of men,” He urged them instead, “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” (Matthew 6:6, 3 Nephi 13:6).
The Greek word which is translated as “closet” in this passage is tameion (ταμεῖον). According to Strong’s Concordance, it refers to “A chamber on the ground-floor or interior of an Oriental house (generally used for storage or privacy, a spot for retirement).” In other passages in the King James Version, it is translated as “secret chambers” (Matthew 24:26), or the “storehouse” (Luke 12:24). Other translations of the Bible render it as “your inner room” or “your private room.”
For me, praying in your closet has two meanings: one literal and the other symbolic.
- Literal – For some prayers, it is important to find a peaceful and secluded place, where you are unlikely to be interrupted. Finding a private place for this purpose can help you to focus your mind and your heart on communicating with your Heavenly Father.
- Symbolic – You can talk with Heavenly Father about anything. Your deepest desires, your most confusing feelings, thoughts that you would not share with another person. You can talk with Him about everything. He loves you and will be gentle. As James reassures, God will not “upbraid” or chastise you for the sincere expression of your thoughts and feelings (James 1:5).
Today, I will remember the imagery of a person praying in a hidden room. I will take advantage of the opportunity to pray in private, and I will remember the symbolism of the closet: that I can talk with God about anything.