As we continue our meditations, especially focusing on the Transfiguration, I would like to reflect on prayer. Studies show that prayer is a very common, popular activity. Even many people who profess no belief in God still pray!
But what precisely is prayer—or better, what ought it to be? The Transfiguration is extremely instructive. We hear that Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him “up the mountain to pray.” Now, as we’ve said before, mountains are standard Biblical places of encounter with God. The idea was that the higher you go, the closer you come to God.
We don’t have to be literal about this, but we should unpack its symbolic sense. In order to commune with God, you have to step out of your every day, workaday world. The mountain symbolizes transcendence, otherness, the realm of God. If people say, “I pray on the go” or “my work is my prayer,” they’re not really people of prayer.
Your mountain could be church, a special room in your house, the car, or a corner of the natural world. But it has to be someplace where you have stepped out of your ordinary business. And you have to take the time to do it. Jesus and his friends literally stepped away in order to pray.
The text then says, “While he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white” (Matthew 17:2). The reference here is to Moses whose face was transfigured after he communed with God on Mt. Sinai. But the luminosity is meant in general to signal the invasion of God.
In the depths of prayer, when you have achieved a communion with the Lord, the light of God’s presence is kindled deep inside of you, at the very core of your existence. And then it begins to radiate out through the whole of your being. That’s why it is so important that Luke mentions the clothing of Jesus becoming dazzling white. Clothes evoke one’s contact with the outside world.
The God discovered in prayer should radiate out through you to the world, so that you become a source of illumination.