For all the talk that people are increasingly spiritual, which from the point of view of Christian faith is neither here nor there, it is evident both statistically and in the reality of church life, that we pray less than ever before.
There is something about prayer which goes entirely contrary to the Spirit of this Age. Of course it also went against each and every previous zeitgeist, but it is this age that has seen such precipitate decline in prayer (along with public worship, generosity in giving alms and of course fasting as a central discipline of the the faith).
Jesus counsel on prayer, in Matthew 6 should really be seen not as a simple instruction, but rather as a disposition of the Life that is eternal – that from our perspective, it is hidden.
This is something which our age, perhaps above all others cannot bear. From every corner, we are exhorted to be ‘Out there’, to ‘Express ourselves’. Through Twitter and Facebook, through talk shows, and endless opinion polls – we are ‘extroverted’. Our own sense that our lives are of Significance, indeed of Ultimate significance is remorselessly fed and so we ‘put ourselves out there in many ways’ . . . and yes that does include blogging.
But this apparent ‘excuvatus’, is no more or less than the massive projection of ourselves, the paradoxical evidence that we are ‘incurvatus se’, turned in ourselves, self obsessed, thinking that our lives are of such interest to others that we must detail them for the sake of our ‘friends’.
Jesus is frequently, conversely, hiding – the source of his life is not himself – public exposure is shunned – rather He is Revealed. He goes secretly to the feast after his brethren have exhorted him to ‘‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’
“No one who wants to be widely known acts in secret.” In our age it is the height of wisdom – and it is Revealed in scripture as unbelief.
We are exhorted by Paul, to pray continually – it is the call to the inner room – the call which Orients us to the Truth that our Life is no longer our own, but His. Insofar as it is Seen, it is Revealed, it does not need to be paraded. Indeed it is not ours to parade.
To go into our room and close the door is The disposition of Life.
If we are to know Life in ourselves and the church, this is perhaps The Lesson we most need to learn.