Tuesday, March 16 – By James Aitchison
Lent is a season of prayer and fasting. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus has some pretty strong things to say about prayer and fasting. Even though we may have heard them and read them many times, these words can still challenge us when heard with fresh ears. Jesus says that whenever we pray, we should go into our room, shut the door and pray to God in private. He warns us of hypocrisy, mentioning those who stand outside and pray aloud in order to be seen by others. He says almost exactly the same about fasting. He suggests that those going out seeking attention for their prayer and fasting have already received their reward. (Perhaps the attention itself is the reward?) In contrast to the ‘hypocrites’, Jesus urges us to pray and fast in secret, so that only God knows. And he tells us that through this practice God will enrich us.
In these teachings, I hear Jesus talking about sincerity in our spiritual lives. He doesn’t want our relationship with God to become distracted by getting caught up in seeking approval or respect from others, or by simply trying to ‘fit in’. While I don’t believe that Jesus never wants us to pray communally – after all, most of us learned to pray in community using the prayer he himself passed down to us – he is highlighting the importance of our prayer life being firmly grounded in God.
As much as we may want to (and try to) share about it, our relationship with God is ultimately something that nobody else can be privy to. When we pray in private, there is little space for pretense. There is no competition. We stand alone, facing God, facing ourselves.
This Lenten season – today – Jesus is calling us to deepen our walk with God by praying in the silence and sincerity of our own hearts.
Help us to ground our prayer life in you and you alone.
Even as we pray out of love for others, keep our hearts centred in your presence,
so that we may grow in your wisdom and peace, emptying ourselves of our own will
and allowing more and more space for your will to operate within and through us.
We pray through Christ,