Silent prayer begins with Jesus. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus says “Go into your room, shut the door, and pray.” In Jesus’ day homes were simple, usually consisting of two rooms, with no closets or closet doors. The two main rooms of the house were usually bustling with the activities of a large family. So, in Matthew 6:6 Jesus isn’t referring to an actual room with an actual door we shut.
“Go into your room, shut the door, and pray” is a metaphor about closing the doors of the senses (not engaging senses of smell, touch, sight, hearing, or taste). Jesus speaks of closing the door to all sense activity including thoughts and imagination, to wait for God who is beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. This interpretation of Matthew 6:6, passed down through generations of mystics, is centering prayer’s scriptural basis. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus gives basic instruction on prayer, which he invariably elaborated to his disciples. We wish we knew what the elaborations were. The Gospel of Thomas gives us clues. Other scriptures say Jesus “prayed all night” or “retreated to a lonely place to pray.” (Mark 1:45b; Mark 6:31, 46; Luke 5:16).