PRAYER - PUBLIC OR PRIVATE
The Book accredited to the Author given the name of Matthew, in Chapter 6, says that Jesus laid out some foundations for prayer. The odd thing is, most Christians today don't follow the lead. I've always wondered why? When I enter within through meditation or contemplative prayer, it's always been in private. I've tried the group thing ... doesn't work for me. I believe all prayer should be one-on-one an personal with the Inner Divine.
I also choose to not pray and "thank God" for my meals. This doesn't mean that I am not in a state of total thankfulness, but if I thank "God/Source" for an outside influenced provision of food, then I would also have to come to the realization that I am practicing entitlement. Because this very same God who has "provided food for me" is the very same God who HAS NOT provided food, shelter, and clean water to millions of other people in the world. And I have a hard time with that. I am thankful in all things. But not as a special Christian entitlement, but as a human experiencing a journey of both good and un-good to help me discern the Higher Self from my lower ego self.
So, now let's have a peek at Matthew 6 for a moment. Jesus is quoted as instructing:
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when 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. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
What powerful and clear cut instructions. No confusion here. But, as with all scripture, there are deeper meanings hidden beneath the stories being told. The myth always contains a Truth and a lesson to be had.
First of all, don't show off. No need to make a big deal of your prayers for an audience to witness. And to "go into your room/closet" is a reference to you inner chamber ... your 'Holy of Holies' WITHIN YOU where God/Source and the Kingdom exist. We are told to shut the door. This means quiet, isolated contact with the Divine. No distractions. Empty phrases are repetitive prayers as if you're reading them from a script. Meditation and contemplative prayer should come from your heart, your emotions, not your left brain logic. It should be fresh and heartfelt. Next ... and very important ... he says "for your Father ALREADY knows what you need BEFORE you ask him." This is because the Father, God/Absolute is WITHIN you and already knows what is needed and taking place inside of you ... in your heart and soul. This is how the God WITHIN already knows before you ask.
So now let's look at some other recorded Scriptures on how Jesus Prayed. The Gospels accounts of the Bible contain many references to Jesus praying ... so please notice the pattern that was set in place many times over.
Matthew 14:23: Jesus went up on the mountain by HIMSELF to pray.
Matthew 26:36-44: Jesus went with three disciples, left them behind and went further to pray ALONE. This is the well known passage in which his disciples fell asleep at Gethsemane, just before Jesus' arrest and execution.
Mark 1:35: Jesus is went to a SOLITARY place to pray.
Luke 5:16: Jesus is described as often going to lonely places to pray ALONE.
Luke 6:12: Jesus withdrew to a mountainside to pray. Verse 13 implies that he was ALONE at the time.
Luke 9:19: Jesus was praying ALONE, with his disciples in the vicinity.
Luke 22:41-43: Jesus withdrew from his disciples "about a stone's throw" to pray BY HIMSELF.
John 16, 17: These chapters are ambiguous about the circumstances of Jesus' prayer just before his arrest. He first talked to his disciples; then he prayed, then he went with his disciples across the Kidron valley. It is not clear where the disciples were situated when Jesus prayed. But if he was consistent with the pattern described in other passages, he would have left the disciples behind, and prayed in PRIVATE.
It would appear that Jesus engaged in private prayer, away from other people. These actions may easily be interpreted as showing his disapproval of public prayer. This would obviously be inclusive of modern day public displays during church services, meals in restaurants, school rooms, sporting events, government or corporate meetings, etc. Among the ancients, prayer was not only different, but was intended as a direct inner connection to the Divine spark of Source/God, and the universal superconsciousness that weaves throughout the entire universe creating the Matrix that binds ALL things together as One ... NOT separate things ... but One thing. Everything that exists, had its origin from the same starting point. Therefore, everything that exists is related and relative within, and without. We are all One. There is no "other."
Just a thought ...
Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.