Today’s Bible reading
“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. — Matthew 6:5-8
“When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. — Matthew 6:16-18
More thoughts for meditation
Despite being a mostly “post-Christian” world, the US is making that transition slower than it’s Western siblings. Jonny Rashid talks about what it’s like to be planting the church in that kind of culture: here.
Our “spiritual capital” looks different than in Jesus’ time and place in 1st-century Palestine, even different than our parents’ time. What we glean from Jesus’ teaching in this section, therefore, may not be as connected to our issues with prayer or fasting as it was to the people he noted — for instance, people will likely think less of you than be impressed by you if you are praying on the street corner.
What about “woke-ness,” though? Do we feel like we want to shout how woke we are from the rooftops? Or do we think we’ll gain increased social capital if we partner with the canceling call-out culture? What do we gain from that kind of recognition? Apparently, not much from God. Our reward from God is not quantified by the amount of likes our post gets.
Suggestions for action
“Calling out” is not inherently wrong, either. Please, prophets, speak up! We need to continue to speak truth to power and call our brothers and sisters to action.
Jesus wants us to discern within a community how we can speak truth to power and mobilize for change. That process usually doesn’t start in the public squares, or Facebook. This is a tough teaching. It is relates to anyone who interacts “publically” (online). What could it look like to put into practice a type of “closet prayer” or “face washing” Jesus speaks of?
Pray: “Jesus, help me discern how the Father sees my “secret” prayer, fasting, posting and acting. What are you teaching for us, today?”
Share this question with a friend and bring to your cell, if you are inspired to.