Shane Hyland, Leader of School Evangelisation at St Joseph’s Regional College reads today from the Gospel of Matthew (6: 1-6, 16-18) which Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.

Shane says, this passage is read on Ash Wednesday and helps us to focus on prayer, service and fasting. Today I would like to focus just on what Jesus says about prayer. Jesus seems to be warning us about an over emphasis on public prayer.

What we know about Jesus’s prayer life is that he often went off by himself to pray, early in the morning and before important moments in his ministry and of course the 40 days in the desert where he would have missed many occasions for public prayer such as the family sabbath meal and synagogue service.

Shane says it seems to him that Jesus is teaching us to have a balanced prayer life.

Public prayer is important; it’s what keeps us bound together, in communion with the body of Christ. So what about private prayer?

Jesus says “But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” The houses of first century Palestine didn’t have a private room so we mustn’t take this literally. Here Jesus is referring to mental prayer, the private room of the mind. It is an intimate invitation to have a conversation with God.

For our reflection today, Shane asks us ‘How often do you go to your private room to pray?’