Shortly after my husband and I started dating, one of his sisters tried to embarrass him by telling me he likes to sing and dance in front of the bathroom mirror (to a 90’s boy band, I’m certain). I just thought it was cute.
What kinds of things do we do when nobody is there is see? On the other hand, how do we act differently because we know people are watching?
The Catholic church I attended in college did a great job of encouraging people to have a “daily quiet time” (praying, reading Scripture, and talking to God about what was read for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour), preferably in the morning. The earlier you had it, the holier it made you. (I am totally joking, but in placing God first in our lives an argument can be made for making time for prayer first thing each day.)
Anyway, it was freshman year and I was still trying to form this – completely life-changing, one of the best ways to grow in relationship with Jesus, necessary for any disciple and worth all the struggle – habit. I would forget to pray or fall back asleep and sometimes successfully make the the time happen only to find myself distracted for most of it. I attended the spring retreat my church offered and it was really amazing how those two mornings I had no trouble popping out of bed before dawn with my Bible and highlighter in tow, heading to a couch where others were sure to see me deep in contemplative prayer.
I had only been trying to read the Bible for a few months , so to my credit maybe I just hadn’t gotten to Matthew 6 yet. More likely, I just wanted others to think I was a rock-star disciple. I “probably” heard Jesus’ teaching on prayer once or twice in my 19 years of going to mass each Sunday and school mass on Thursdays. Jesus tells us, “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:6)
On the flip side, is there a time when public prayer is appropriate and can be a means of drawing others deeper into relationship with Christ? I have been to restaurants where an individual or family stop to pray before eating. My heart praises God in these situations and my own faith is strengthened. My family has gotten into the habit of praying together before meals in public although I know there was a time where we didn’t because #1, we didn’t think of it, #2, we didn’t want people to think we were strange, or #3, we didn’t want to offend anyone.
Sincerity of heart is key. Whether I am at home eating lunch alone or out to dinner with my family, I hope I pause to thank God for my meal and all my blessings and that I am being genuine. If I am saying the traditional Catholic memorized meal prayer or I make up a spontaneous prayer (and even if I’m dancing in front of the bathroom mirror), I hope my heart is caught up in the goodness of God.
Jesus, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Sorry for the times we do things to try and impress other people, especially when it comes to our relationship with You. Thank you for seeing the depths of our hearts. Let our prayers be sincere. Give us fortitude to boldly live out our faith in You. May You and You alone be our motivation, our example and our strength as we strive to love God, ourselves and others. Please increase our humility and help us to be more like You. Amen.