“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” (Matthew 6:6).
Ash Wednesday allows us to practice what Jesus taught as we observe this first day of Lent. We fast and receive God’s blessing with ashes on our foreheads to express our sorrow for offending Him. Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) invites us to do this with sincerity, asking our Father for forgiveness openly and honestly, but from the inner rooms of our hearts.
When Jesus taught His disciples how to fast, pray and practice good deeds in a manner most pleasing to our Father, He said they shouldn’t act like the hypocrites who made sure others saw them, so as to win their praise. The hypocrites received the praise they pined for, but that was it for them, Jesus warned, “They have received their reward.”
When the praise of man is our only incentive to do good, then the praise of man is all we’ll get. On the other hand, if our acts are done from the heart with the intent that only our Father see them, a most excellent reward comes to us, “and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
What we receive from delighting our Father is lasting. Our recompense begins immediately with His grace and continues on for eternity—what could be better?
Not everyone can distinguish sincerity, but our Heavenly Father sees everything. Let us humbly speak with faith to the One who knows of our hunger, hears our every prayer, sees our every deed, forgives us of everything and rewards us greatly.