War Rooms Then and Now. And: What is a prayer closet?

I'm all for prayer. I am all for creating a space to pray, undistracted. However, not everyone in Western Christianity has the luxury of a special room in which to devote one's self to prayer. PEOPLE, IT'S NOT ABOUT THE ROOM!
Question: "What is a prayer closet?" 
Answer: After a short discourse on the follies of trying to appear religious in front of people, Jesus talks about prayer. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8). The Greek used here for “room” is tameion, which means "an inner storage chamber or a secret room." The point being, a public prayer, announced on a street corner, gives the pray-er all the attention he can expect to receive. A quiet prayer, directed at God and not passers-by, will reap spiritual blessings.

Some have taken the admonition literally. They set aside a room or a quiet corner in their homes, furnish it with a comfortable chair, table, Bible, and maybe a notebook, and use that corner for a regular prayer time. That’s certainly appropriate, but the fact that the room Jesus referred to most likely meant a pantry gives us a little more flexibility. A “prayer closet” might be a daily commute, a bench in the back yard, or the kitchen table. John Wesley’s mother is said to have sat in a chair and thrown her apron over her head as a sign to her kids to leave her alone. Jesus usually went to a secluded hillside. The point is that the “closet” is free from interruption, distraction, and listening ears.

Although there are good reasons to have a dedicated space for regular prayer—such as training the family to respect the quiet and keeping prayer-related materials in one place—that was not what Jesus was referring to. The passage in Matthew 6 talks about performing religious acts for the purpose of allowing others to see. Any act, be it praying, giving, or serving, should not be done for the purpose of gaining approval from others. Praying, giving, and serving should be responses to our relationship with God and the mercies He has given us. If a specific, dedicated location encourages prayer, it should by all means be used. If the cab of a pickup or a quiet stretch of beach suffices, that’s perfectly acceptable.
Examples of Prayer Closets.

Jesus in the Garden. Matthew 26:36

The Upper Room Acts 1:13-14

Apostle Paul's War Room Acts 16:23

Martin Luther's War Room at Wittenburg

Martyr William Tyndale's war room, incarcerated at Brussels, 1535

George Muller, Administrator of the Orphanage Built by Prayer.

Peruvian war room

Kenya Secret Church listening to Pastor David Platt in rudimentary room

Priscilla Shirer Movie War Room

Lady-decorated war room, Western Christianity

My war room is my kitchen table. I have my bible, a lamp, tissues, note paper, pens, and my prayer journal.

It is not about the room. It is about the God who hears prayer

O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. (Psalm 65:2)


Further Reading

Justin Peters reviews War Room


  1. Looking at all the "war room" examples in yesterday's post reminded me of people who run out and buy a gym membership and fancy work out clothes thinking THEN they will finally get into shape, when they aren't already committed to fitness in there everyday actions. Like simply taking a daily walk. These ladies make these cutsie prayer rooms, thinking THEN they will get regular about prayer. I have to wonder if they don't prsy regularly already, and if they don't already trust the Lord to answer prayer, how does a trendy decorated closet change anything?

    1. EXACTLY. Jennifer you and I think alike on this one. I couldn't have said it better myself. And happily, it was exactly the point I wanted to get across from the photos. Thanks for commenting :)

  2. It's the same thinking that permeates American 'christianity'--if you do this or that, your spiritual life will be better. It can be creating a war room, drawing chalk circles, contemplative prayer, or whatever--anything to bypass the nuts and bolts of studying God's word and spending time in prayer with him. The underlying message is that bibl study and prayer is boring and we have to do these other things to spice it up and make it exciting. Oh well, I'm sure a lot of contractors will be happy for the business as people all over the country will be building war rooms!!! --Linda Dodson

  3. I take offense to these statements. I am a believer, but that doesn't stop the devil from attacking my life. In fact I believe it encourages him. So, while I am reaching out to find resources and strategy for the call from God to create a better prayer life, I find judgement instead of celebration. It does not matter to God where we pray as we are to do so continually. However, as a busy mom of three and one on the way if I am encouraged to create a private and maybe pretty space to encourage myself find a more focused time to talk to God, I am mocked. Ladies, it doesn't matter what gets you to your knees; it matters that you get there. I find that different techniques of prayer have helped me at different stages in my life, and to think that there is only one way to connect to God is close-minded. I have been blessed through the growth of thinking outside traditional methods. I do not see how these methods bypass studying God's word, if anything they enhance it and create lasting impressions of His Word on our hearts. As a former teacher, I know people learn differently. Therefore it only make sense that there are multiple ways to learn the Word of God and build a lasting relationship with the Lord. I'm also a runner and I know that when you are in training you have to keep changing it up, or you can not make progress to be more fit. I think our relationship with God is the same. We have to continually go in the direction we feel lead. Challenging ourselves to go deeper and in different directions. We are called to be the salt, who wants to follow a bland example of Christianity? Talking to God should be exciting. We are called to be light. We have to spark the joy of Jesus in our hearts and in the heart's of others. We can start a fire many different ways, but it must start within us first and we'll never start a spark by crushing other's good intentions.

    1. Hi Bridget,

      Thank you for sharing what's on your heart, and I'm sorry if you were offended. It is not my intention to offend, but it is my intention to use the gift of discernment and His word to perhaps bring conviction.

      I'm really glad you pray. I am for prayer, as I said at the outset. What I am pointing out, is the hypocritical way that some people are taking this movie. They don't pray to begin with, but then substitute a room as an idol for the fix-it for their dry spiritual life. Or a strategy or a plan or prayer cards or a movie.

      You mentioned "I am reaching out to find resources and strategy for the call from God to create a better prayer life" and I applaud that. However, did you notice the photo in a previous essay about the War Room? It was a picture of man-written "War Room Resources" and not one of the resources pictured was the BIBLE. When you reach out to have a better prayer life, do you use scripture to inform you as to how? I hope so. That is the basis.

      Others pray, and while that may seem good, they pray to GET things, or they pray because they want peace or something else. So their prayers have a bad motivation, no matter what room they pray in.

      The point of this post is that a precious, lady-decorated room is not the end, it is the beginning. Others, like a busy Mrs Wesley lacking a private room to retreat to, simply used her apron over her head to indicate it was private time. The reaction to War Room is to clean out closets and make a war room. For some, that will be the answer, to develop a private time absent distractions. That's all well and good. But for the majority, I fear, when their spiritual life is just as dry a year from now and their war room has filled back up with kid stuff, old clothes and golf clubs, what then? Another strategy? Another plan? Another movie?

      And I'll share with you what offends me. A movie that was created by brothers who abandoned their pastorate and the sheep they were charged by God to care for, who slid out from oversight from their home church, who partner with heretics, who plan their movies by directly hearing from God, and who hire black actors because they're "more heart grabbing"and that is a quote. I am offended by movies which merchandise God's word and is applauded and promoted by heretics like Paula White and TD Jakes with not only not a murmur from the producers but who THANK the heretics for their support. How about that? If you want to get offended, why not get offended by what God is offended by?


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