One test for a Christian is "what Jesus says about prayer." The author of the Gospel of Matthew stated this clearly:"
Matthew 6:5-6: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men....when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret...."The reference to go into thy closet has been translated in other versions of the Bible as "go into your inner room." "go away by yourself," "all alone," "your [most] private room," "enter into thy chamber," and "go into your room." The message of Mathew 6:6 clearly implies that:
Jesus condemns prayers in situations where other people are present prayers are to be an intensely personal event between a person and their God; no one else should be present.One can infer that, according to the author of Matthew, prayers should not be given in groups, whether at school, in church, in synagogue, or in a legislature.
Some commentaries on these passages are:
The Interpreter's One Volume Commentary on the Bible (1) states, with reference to Matt. 6:6 that:
"...prayer and fasting are to be purely private acts involving only God and the penitent one."Matthew Henry's Commentary (2) states:
"Instead of praying in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, enter into thy closet, into some place of privacy and retirement. Isaac went into the field..., Christ to a mountain, Peter to a housetop."Asimov's Guide to the Bible (3) states:
"Jesus....decries giving alms openly, praying in public...Jesus points out that if it is human acclaim that is wanted, then...that is all the reward that is likely to come."The Gospels contain many references to Jesus praying, including:
Matthew 26:36-44: These verses describe how Jesus went with three disciples, left them behind and went further to pray alone. This is a well known passage in which his disciples fell asleep at Gethsemane.It would appear that Jesus promoted private prayer, and condemned public prayer. A Bible-believing Christian would logically oppose prayer in school and other public places.
Mark 1:35: Jesus is described as going to a solitary place to pray.
Luke 3:21: This passage describes how Jesus was baptized and was in prayer when the Holy Ghost descended. Unfortunately, this passage does not describe how and where Jesus was praying.
Luke 5:16: Jesus is described as often going to lonely places to pray
Luke 6:12: Jesus withdrew to a mountainside to pray. Verse 13 implies that he was alone at the time.
Luke 9:19: Jesus was praying alone, with his disciples in the vicinity.
John 16, 17: These chapters are ambiguous about the circumstances of Jesus' prayer just before his arrest. He first talked to his disciples; then he prayed, then he went with his disciples across the Kidron valley. It is not clear where the disciples were located when Jesus prayed. But if he was consistent with the pattern described in other passages, he would have left the disciples behind, and prayed to God in private.