“My house shall be a house of prayer”
Where do we find a place of prayer? I sure some have had the following experience. You come to church early to pray. There are Gentlemen at the back of the church carrying on a conversation – they think they are whispering, but everyone in the church hears clearly what they are saying. Several people stop to say hello, an usher asks if you can take up the gifts. Mass starts. Someone’s cell phone keeps ringing off but whoever it is won’t shut it off. A little boy is running up and down the aisle – the Man in front of you is ill and is continually hacking into the same tiny tissue he keeps reusing – all you can think of is “I hope he doesn’t turn around during the sign of peace” Cell phone starts ringing again – then you realize it was your phone all along. You are so embarrassed you rush out of church in a hurry after Mas.
OK – maybe Sunday isn’t the best time to pray in the Church. So you decide to stop by during the week and have a few quiet moments with the Lord. First Day the custodian is vacuming the carpet. Second day the children from the school are rehearsing for their Mass. Third day doors are locked and you can’t even get in.
So you think. Jesus said not to pray in public, but to pray in our room where our Father hears in secret. So you go to your room. Phone rings – so you answer it. Come back to pray. Kid knocks on the door. Can Jenny come and visit? OK. Then back to praying. Spouse comes it – where is my wallet? So you have to help him find his wallet. Then back to praying. Then Jenny comes over – and all you can hear is little girls screaming and laughing a sound that is intrinsically distracting to all who hear it.
Hide in the bathroom. No one will bother me here. Lock the door. Noise cancelling headphones. Try to pray, try to think about God but every thought in the world expect God comes to your mind. Projects uncompleted at work. What am I going to make for dinner tomorrow. Oh I promised to call my brother and I forgot.
It is hard to find a place to pray. The Gospel says that the people of Israel took forty years to build the temple. We don’t find a place to pray. We need to build places of prayer. We need to make places of prayer.
We have to work together to make our Church a place of prayer. To keep it beautiful, clean. Make it a place of silence – respecting others desire to pray before and after Mass, teaching our children how to behave. For those who are ministers doing your tasks carefully, dressing neatly and carrying oneself reverently so as not to draw attention to oneself. Coming to Mass early so we are not in rush and frazzled, but instead calm and recollected when Mass starts. For our church to be a place of prayer we all need to work together. But if we do work together it will become a place for many to know God.
We must make our homes places of prayer. All our lives are busy. All our schedules are chaotic. Prayer requires discipline. The discipline of doing our work in advance so we have time to pray without having to worry about all the things left to do. The discipline of getting up early before the craziness begins. The discipline of shutting off distractions – phone, ipad, television etc. The discipline of ignoring others. Except for rare emergencies, your children, your husband or wife, your boss – they can survive for twenty minutes without you. But none of us can survive twenty seconds without God. We need to pray and we ought not feel guilty for doing so – prayer is a necessity not a luxury.
Most of all we need to create a place of prayer within. Even in a church, even in a quiet place we cannot pray if we are restless within – if our minds are racing about a million other things. In our second reading, St. Paul tells that all of us are temples – God dwells within us. And this is a key to a prayerful spirit – recognizing the presence of God. St. Frances de Sales recommends starting prayer simply by trying to imagine or recall this simple truth. God is present here, because he is present in me, he dwells in me. Once we are convinced that God dwells within us, we are able to pray in any place and at any time.
“My house shall be a house of prayer” The Jewish people took 40 years to build a temple fit for God. Let us work together to make our Church a place of prayer. Let us build homes with the discipline of prayer. Let us grow in awareness of presence of God in our hearts.