But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. —Matthew 6:6
Religion and prayer are so often outward things. Yet the sacred ought to be set apart; set apart inwardly, so that it is not touched by what is of the world.
There's a paradox here, because so much of religion is outward form. We tend to externalize any and all religious activity... so much so that both asceticism and baroque splendor become a part of that action. Perhaps this is necessary—can any information about a "secret" inner activity be conveyed without any outward signs?
That is to say, if transmission is necessary, doesn't it of necessity have to be outward?
Well, yes. But even all of the necessary outward signs must in the end be separated from the inward act of prayer.
This is what "go into your room, close the door" means to me: there needs to be a segregated inner space that is more than symbolic.
My wife and I were speaking of this yesterday and she asked me, if I felt this way, how I felt about, for example, prayer at meals. I confessed that I'm uncomfortable with it, as I am all outward religious activities that fall outside the scope of formal, organized religious service. I always have been, as though this personal "showing" of prayer and devotion were revealing something that ought to be secretly and strictly between a human being and God.
The passage in Matthew deals with this question; and if what is secret is indeed secret, then it cannot be shown to others. If we reveal even the least part of it outwardly it is already compromised.
In my own experience this secret place ought to be very private indeed; and it ought to be a place in which great inner suffering takes place. This suffering is part of that unseen mystery which I confront in my relationship with God; and it always pivots around my inner lack. A lack of relationship, a lack of appreciation, a lack of gratitude. It's in the moments where a real feeling quality imparts this understanding that my wish arises in a new way.
In the outer world, I craft my own sorrows; yet there are sorrows God crafts for me, if I dare to move closer inwardly.
It's in those sorrows, which must be kept as a secret inner treasure, that I receive a different influence than what the outer brings me.