In giving instructions about prayer, Jesus said: “Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” I think the KJV uses the word “ closet,” and that strikes me as somehow more powerful. First of all, a closet is a small, dark space, without room for distraction. And second, if I were to pray in my closet I would need to do a lot of work first – and maybe that is just the point of this instruction, at least to me.
My closet is packed with stuff. I have more clothes than I can possibly wear in a month, I suppose. And just how many pair of black shoes does one woman need? If I were really to go into my closet to pray, I would need to get rid of a lot of stuff, literally and figuratively. I sit to pray and I am surrounded by my physical and mental accumulations. They crowd out my silence, intrude into my spirit, and disturb my soul. Instead of focusing on God, I think about what to wear, which bills need to be paid, whether I did the agenda for the 8:30 meeting. I try to pray in the midst of a soul crammed with the accumulations of too many seasons. I have held onto that which should have been discarded or recycled long ago: old grudges and hurt; imagined identities that no longer fit the reality of who I am; unnecessary busyness that bounces around my brain like a pack of chattering monkeys.
The room for centering prayer at the cathedral is dark and plain. It is a physical representation of what I would want for my spiritual reality. So I work on emptying my spiritual closets -- and my physical ones, too -- so there will be a little more room for the Holy Spirit, even in the midst of all the stuff of my life.