As I sit writing these words with my old Swan fountain pen on an oak roll-top desk, my left forearm rests on a book about Writer’s Houses. On end in a cubbyhole to my right is another book of photographs called The Writer’s Desk. As a writer, I enjoy looking at pictures of the private places where famous authors practiced their craft.
We expect a writer to dedicate a room in his home for writing, or a musician to set aside space in her residence just for music, or an artist to use one of the rooms where he lives as a studio. Many people do all or part of their daily work from offices at home. Why, then, shouldn’t a Christian have a place in the house devoted exclusively to the work of prayer?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of how hypocrites love to pray so that people can see or hear them and be impressed. “But when you pray,” He instructed His followers, “go into your room and shut your door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
In the King James Version of the Bible, the word translated here as room is rendered closet, giving rise to a now old-fashioned term, “prayer closet.” While the Lord’s primary emphasis in this verse is on the importance of sincere, humble, private prayer, why not have a place—a prayer closet—in your home set aside just for meeting with God?
The idea of a well-used prayer closet is central to the 2015 movie, War Room. In it each of the two leading characters dedicates a bedroom closet as a “war room,” a place where they engage in spiritual warfare.
While it’s true that many will not have the space to set aside an area exclusively for prayer, what does it say about the priorities of Christians who have a whole room for physical exercise, but no place only for spiritual exercises? What does it say when we allocate a large space just for children to play, but none for Christians to pray? What does it say when we design the most spacious area in the home for our entertainment, filling it with a large television, music system, and computer whereby we hear from the world, but make no plans for a place where we meet with God?
It’s not that we can’t use the same desk both for work and prayer, or that we can’t read the Bible in the same chair where we watch TV. But why shouldn’t the home of a Christian demonstrate by design—whether a small room, nook, or repurposed closet—that prayer to God is important?
An earlier version of this post appeared in my Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), pages 87-88.