True prayer is conversation with God. In Deuteronomy 9:13 Moses writes, “The Lord spake unto me, saying,” and in verse 26 Moses says, “I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said.” We see this again in Daniel 9:1–4 when Daniel is reading the prophecy of Jeremiah and understands the will of God. In verse 4 he says, “I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said.”
Prayer then is our response to God. John said we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And we could say the same about prayer: we speak to Him because He first spoke to us. When faith recognizes Him in creation and in His works of providence it cries out in praise and prayer. But it is in His Word especially that God speaks to us, and prayer responds in kind out of love to God. True prayer comprises two parts therefore: God speaks to us through His Word and Spirit and we in turn speak to Him in prayer. Without the Word and Spirit prayer is the superstitious rambling of fallen humanity, no matter how fervent (1 Kings 18:26f). There are also two types of prayer—continuous prayer (Luke 18:1) and closet prayer (Matthew 6:6).
Because prayer is a spiritual exercise—a simple conversation with God from the heart—and is not limited to ritual or procedure, Paul tells us that we can “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and “continu[e] instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12), and the Lord Jesus tells us that we “ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1). Ironically, it is this spiritual simplicity that makes closet prayer extremely hard. The flesh fights against all spiritual exercises, the world distracts from all spiritual realities, and the devil tempts with empty promises. The path to prayer is a spiritual gauntlet.
But there is a second irony here. We cannot get to the place of prayer because of the gauntlet we have to run, and yet the greatest weapon in this battle is prayer itself. How can we overcome if we can’t get to prayer? The answer to this question brings us back to the beginning and makes us thank the Lord that He hears the simple desire of the heart: “Lord thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart” (Psalm 10:17).
It is the humble who are prepared in prayer and are heard. Throw off all confidence in the flesh, all pride and reserve, and cry out to God for help. Whatever you are doing or wherever you are pray that He will enable you to overcome all of the obstacles to the place of prayer, that He will draw you with excitement and expectation into the closet to spend that coveted time with Him. As you make your way to the closet, be in prayer; as you resist the devil, be in prayer, and he will flee from you; as you meet with the distractions, be in prayer, and you will find that He who answers prayer will “prepare [your] heart” and lead you on into the closet.