Every year, one of the lectionary readings for Ash Wednesday is Matthew 6: 1-21. Jesus is teaching about the spiritual disciplines and how they are best practiced. He gives both cautions and advice:
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This meditation quilt focuses on the words in Matthew 6:6: “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
When you pray.
Go into your room.
Shut the door.
Jesus also recommends a simple prayer that we’ve come to call The Lord’s Prayer. No “heaping up” of lots of words.
Leave it outside.
Keep all your implements and temptations to “heap up” words outside….
Jesus’ brief prayer just gets to the point. It teaches us to be simple and quiet. After all, God knows what we each need, but too often we ourselves don’t. We think we do, and so we try to spell it out with lots of words to God. No, says Jesus. That doesn’t do it. Just sit quietly in your room, open your heart, breathe, and maybe by the grace of God, the Spirit will make known to you what is really important.
“….and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”