“Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who
sees in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
Christ is telling us to go into our rooms to pray, which is what we do before bedtime. Does it mean that we should not pray in Church? Of course not! He had just warned us in a sentence before this that we are not to pray like hypocrites, who enjoy being seen at prayer by others. Jesus never liked spiritual showoffs, and He doesn’t want anyone called by His name to be like them. Private prayer and congregational prayer are complimentary. When you present yourself at the liturgy, you bring with you the soul you are honing and shaping by your daily personal prayers. Christ Jesus is there with you in the stillness of your privacy, and He greets you along with your sisters and brothers in faith who gather together to be with Him in Church.
He means that in order to tune our souls into the Holy Spirit, we are to shut out all distractions. We have five portals on our bodies that cause disturbances, if we allow them to dominate our inner selves: Prayer time is not for listening to music, watching television, eating, or such. Prayer demands concentration. We must take charge of our thoughts, which is not a simple matter. Even during the holy liturgy we are invited to “Lay aside all earthly cares” at one point, and be like the cherubs fixed on nothing but the awareness of the Father. Here is a challenge for us all.
Another prayer test comes from St. Paul: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God…” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Let happiness be your constant attitude. It can happen only if you grow spiritually to the heights where you will be able to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Everything that happens to us is a potential lesson. Life teaches us to endure suffering and crush pride, to pray for grace when difficulties arise, and to accept each moment of life as a precious gift from the Lord.
For that we thank Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by praying without ceasing. This is possible only when our minds are ever with the Lord. You say that’s impossible? I say: Have you never been in love? Remember how the object of your affection was indeed an obsession—you thought of nobody else—where she was, what she was thinking of, or doing, or how she looked at the moment. Remember? So it is with the Lord when you develop a God-consciousness. Prayer is constant communication with the Source of your life. Prayer is like the strings supporting the marionette.
When you develop this blessed habit, you will be able to drive away every evil thought. With the Lord as your constant companion, you will do your utmost to prevent Him from exposure to lust, pride, anger, and even the lesser sins, like frustration and discouragement. Rather than ask: What would Jesus do, you will know instinctively, or rather by the grace of the Holy Spirit what you should do in His name, and in His constant presence within your soul.
Mental prayer, for that is what it is, will warm your soul in such a way that you will take notice of its heat, and feel yourself grow cold when you lose it. You will walk in the light of the Spirit of God, and a glow will radiate from your heart and whole self. You will be like the blessed patriarchs and prophets of the Bible who “walked with God” while on earth, understanding who you are in the mind of the Lord Almighty.