Wednesday, February 10
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Minute for Mission:
"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.” Matthew 6:5-6
Jesus wants us to pray to God and God alone because he wants the energy, passion, love, and focus of our souls to be on God. Ash Wednesday is a call we can be thankful for, a call to repent and re-focus our spiritual vitality on God.
Consider two people playing tennis.
One is me.
The other is Serena Williams.
If I’m the one serving the ball, you could probably lob it back for points while you were taking a nap on the court.
If Serena Williams is the one serving, you’d better wake up and run. She has intense focus. With her energy and skill she could knock you over with one ace.
Jesus tells us that taking the crowd more seriously than the task (prayer, in this case, not tennis) is actually a distraction from focus on God.
Bernard of Clairveaux wrote about the four degrees of love of God, degrees that have to do with the direction and focus of our love. First, we love ourselves. Second, we love God for what God does for us. Third, we love God for who God is, apart from us. Fourth, we love all that God loves, all of creation, which even includes ourselves.
Making sure people hear us is one way we have of being sure of ourselves.
Jesus switches things up. We can’t be sure of ourselves. After all, we don’t even love ourselves – let alone others – as much as God loves us. Nor can we be sure of God, not by our own powers.
But God is sure of us. How hard it is to let go and rest in that assurance. How hard it is to let go and focus on the God of the universe, who, we read in scripture, is love! It is Ash Wednesday, and we aren’t just called to pray in secret. We are called to be rewarded by God who hears us in secret. We are called to an intimacy with God that is already given to us. Let us turn quietly to God and rejoice!
Rev. Dr. Michelle J. Bartel, Coordinator of Theological Education and Seminary Relations, PC(USA) Office of Theology, Formation, and Evangelism
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
God of grace, as we prepare for this season of Lent, equip us with perseverance. Use our brief lives to your glory. Empower us as your disciples, that even when the land is parched, we may know your presence with us, transforming what seems barren into life overflowing. Amen.