He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21
Jesus said, "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.
"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."
In both the BCP and RCL lectionaries, we see an admonition about prayer. Today Father Roger addressed this in the Ash Wednesday service. What is your first impression when you hear the word prayer? For me it brings up memories of the Full Gospel services of my youth. During group prayers in church, there was no leader. Each person knelt with their elbows resting on their pews and prayed aloud, emphasis on loud. Some would speak in tongues, others sounded like the televangelists on the TV. Then there was prayer standing up, done much the same way, and prayers for healing, also loud and chaotic as we encircled the person we were praying for and dipped our fingers in olive oil to annoint said person. Prayer was a chaotic din...
Then there was prayer before meals. These prayers were usually led by someone as everyone else bowed their heads. These prayers were more quiet, but still seemed a bit much.
But the prayers that stick with me the most, the ones that really shaped me were not ones lead by others, or chaotic sounds of offering. They were the prayers I said as I struggled through my adolescence during my long walks in the woods behind my house. Prayers where I talked to God, told him how I felt, and asked questions that I wouldn't dare ask in church. It was in these moments that I found the words of the hymn, "What a friend we have in Jesus". I took solace in the knowledge that Jesus was human, that he had gone through the same things I was now struggling with. For me that was the solace I could not find in friends, family or Church.
I think my focus this Lent season is going to be just that. Getting back to that personal relationship I had so many years ago.