St Mathew’s Gospel speaks to us about the attitudes that are proper for this Lenten time: fasting, almsgiving and prayer. In these three cases Jesus invites us not to do this to be seen by others, because all that matters is that God sees us.
About prayer in particular Jesus says, “When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have their reward. When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8, Christian Community Bible)
This text seems to me very appropriate for our current situation. Never as now has there been no alternative for our prayer. We cannot go to the church nor can we participate in the Eucharist.
But limited as we are to the confinement of our own homes, we can go into our room and meet with the God of life; and this is real prayer. It’s not a matter of lots of words, nor asking that things change, as that same text from Matthew says, because the Lord already knows what we need. As Psalm 139 confirms, the Lord knows all our ways, knows when we sit or stand, knows from afar what we are thinking, knows all our steps.
St Teresa defines prayer as “nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends” and she also says that prayer is “not a matter of thinking much but of loving much.”
To “go into your room” is this experience of being in the same place for 24 hours knowing that you cannot go out, looking towards the street and seeing so few people, being surprised by the noise of the city and feeling that there is too much silence, talking to others, but knowing that you cannot plan to meet; it is, in other words, being conscious of the present moment and living through it with the Lord. By his side and hand in hand considering what it is possible to do now and hoping that all this will pass. Not many words are needed; just being with “Him” trusting that he will never leave our side.
Olga Consuelo Vélez. Theologian, Colombia.
TA Translation team.