Threads of Prayer and Justice

“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 6:1-6, 16-18

Reflection by Dannis Matteson, Sisters of St Joseph of Rochester Volunteer Corps Alumni


        Prayer and justice go together. This is the theme that we find Jesus teaching in our Ash Wednesday scripture. It stems from a long tradition of the liberating God of the Exodus who calls people to lives of both prayer and justice. This prominent thread weaves its way through Judeo-Christian history and emerges in the prophetic outcries of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Isaiah exemplifies this prophetic conviction about prayer and justice:
Is this the manner of fasting I would choose, a day to afflict oneself? … Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh? (Is. 58:5-7)

If you look carefully, you might notice that the lectionary omits a section right in the middle of today’s Gospel reading. What do you find between verses 6 and 16? That’s right, the Lord’s Prayer! The Our Father! Jesus is teaching his followers to pray about very specific acts similar to Isaiah: Daily bread: making sure all have enough to eat! Debts: unbinding the enslaved! Temptation: refusing the temptation to use violent tactics to bring about the Kingdom of God, rather, committing to nonviolence!*  In essence, the Our Father is a call to justice wrapped up in prayer. I believe that is the call of Ash Wednesday. That, as both the prophets and Jesus taught, our attempts at prayer be wrapped up in justice and that our just acts may be wrapped up in prayer.


God of Justice, 

Help me to follow Your call 
in prayer, through listening to Your still, small voice
in life, through listening to the needs of the world
in silence, through listening to my own heart’s desires
Lead me to the joy of answering your call
over and over again.


Focus on: Spirituality

      Responding to God’s call to us is key to cultivating a lifestyle of prayer and justice. Remember that the passion and desire that emerge within you often indicate the direction in which God is calling you. The call of prayer and justice often leads to hardship and challenge. But ultimately, it leads to deep joy. Spend time this Lenten season journaling about ways that you feel called to embody a lifestyle of prayer and justice today, this year, and in the future. 

Service Suggestion:

      As a CVN Volunteer, you serve every day! Perhaps you might spend time this Lent contemplating how you will continue your lifestyle of service once your volunteering concludes. As an example, both my husband and I participated in CVN years ago. And, we have continued living out service by answering the call to help start an intentional community called the Hope House that serves Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood through The Port Ministries. Our Hope House community is committed to communal prayer, as well as practical justice in a variety of ways. As we have found, when you follow God’s call, anything is possible!

This reflection is part of our Lenten series – Download the Lenten Guide Here

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