A Secret Place (Matthew 6:6)
Prayer is an Unnatural Act. A lifetime of rebelling and struggling against prayer, elicits from me, such an exasperating fiat. But for Jesus, prayer was as Blood is to Life. Throughout all four Gospels, he is portrayed as a man centered in prayer. It nourished him –Body, Mind and Soul. It rooted him in the Bosom of his Father. It propelled him with a Power transcending all resistance to the Will of God. It defined his existence and drove him to his destiny -the Cross. That we all resist the call to prayer decries our Brokenness. That Jesus taught his disciples to pray, as a first order of business, frames prayer as a Pearl of Great Price.
When Jesus prayed, he retreated into the Love of his Father. And it was this Secret Place that he longed to share with his beloved disciples… ‘But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’ Prayer is an encounter with God. This experience takes place in a secrete room in our heart, a sacred place set aside for Divine Intimacy –a place closed off from the distractions of need, where we make ourselves available to the Love of God, where he rewards us with the Touch of his Father.
Before teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus first tells them how not to: ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard… your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ Most, have grown beyond the mindless multiplication of rote prayer, but our tendency toward “many words” is a problem we all deal with. Jesus reminds us it is not necessary to spend a lot of time explaining to God our needs which he already knows. Besides, the more we speak, the less we listen.
As our prayer matures, we move beyond the laundry list approach -of just presenting our petitions. We move from need-centered speaking, to God-centered listening. Rarely do we, like Moses, hear God’s voice and converse with him. Typically, we are more like Elijah, when he heard God speak in the whisperings of a “gentle breeze.” (1Kings 19:12) Generally, we encounter the Voice of God in Sacred Silence. Not with the empting of our mind, but with a quiet infilling -of pondering his Word or his latest lesson in our life.
As a woman is said to be expecting, waiting for the arrival of her child, so should our prayer time be pregnant with expectation –with the visitation of our Lord, with the Movement of his Spirit. Elijah was expecting to hear God. Without the quiet expectation of encountering God, we quickly resort back to words or wandering thoughts.
God’s Voice takes on endless forms as we ponder the reading of the day, or a verse that has been stirring in our mind. Small insights; promptings toward Good; nudging for change –how or when the Spirit percolates into consciousness endlessly varies; but that he wants to Touch, to be received, is a certainty. Every day, he is calling us to prayer, to enter into that Secret Place, to place ourselves into the Womb of his Love. Our Father is in that Secret Place waiting for us, anticipating our time with him.Father, open my ears and my heart in my feeble attempts to sit with you in prayer –that I may receive what you so desire to give; that I may give what you so desire to receive. Jesus, I want to know prayer as you knew prayer. Plant me in the Peace of your Holy Spirit. Free me to be stirred by his Whisperings. Holy Spirit, release me from my pursuit of self. Fill me with an uncontainable desire to respond to your Love; to Exalt my God above all; to surrender into his All-Loving Will for my life. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.