How to find your “private room,” even in the middle of a crowded subway.
Posted in , Apr 5, 2017
Jesus is, as usual, very direct in his advice about prayer. We’re not supposed to parade around and show off our holiness, reciting verses so that other people might hear us.
“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get.” (Matthew 6:5). The show offs get the attention they want–from other people not from God.
“But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6) We’re meant to pray privately, in secret, unburdening ourselves of things we’d tell no one else.
You might be tempted to argue with Jesus about how hard it is to find peace and quiet in some private room. Who has a house that big? And when you shut your door, isn’t that just the moment when everyone wants you? (The phone rings, the email squawks, the dog wants to be let out, the neighbor knocks…)
Not many people in Jesus’ time had private rooms where they could shut the door. Not by a long shot. Most of Jesus’ listeners lived in crowded houses teeming with activity. Seems to me that what Jesus is asking for is metaphorical. A private place–that room–can be any place that we choose.
As many of you know, one of my favorite places to pray is on the New York subway in the middle of the morning rush hour. It’s not a time to answer email or respond to texts or to check on the news. Those things can wait. It’s private time with God–even if I’m surrounded by people.
Often people will say their favorite place to pray is “In the car.” Is it a room with the door closed? Not exactly. But it is a place to be private and to speak in secret where the Father can listen in secret.
What I’ve found is that whatever place you choose for prayer will work. As you return to it, the external stimuli–the roll of the subway train, in my case, the rumble of it down the tracks–will help you find that familiar internal place of peace and sustenance.
No need to tell me where you pray. Just remember: “Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”