Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Withdraw to Lonely Places

One of my favorite lonely places to pray

Mark 5:15-16 reads: the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Underline often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

I strongly encourage my seminary and RMS students to find a "lonely place" to withdraw to and pray. Such a place is apart from one's home and work place. Of course you can pray in your home and office. But there are too many distractions there. The "lonelier" the place is, the better it will be to achieve focus on God alone, because the fewer the distractions will be. Praying in a lonely place apart is experientially different than praying in the place of familiarity.

Here's an analogy. Linda and I have many times gone on a date (even while married) wanting to talk together, alone and without distraction, face to face. Similarly, face-to-face time with God is needed to sustain one's spiritual life. Authentic God-connection, or any real relationship, cannot be multitasked.

I have 4-5 such lonely places in our Monroe community. I bring my Bible, journal, some 3X5 cards, and perhaps another book I am reading slowly and devotionally. For example, that book now for me is Henri Nouwen's The Road to Peace. 

I get alone with God, sometimes for hours. This solitude is, as Nouwen calls it, "the furnace of spiritual tranformation." Here, in such lonely places with God, God meets me, morphing my subhumanity into true humanity. 

Of course we can talk with God while we are in a crowd or a "church service." But this is about relationship and not ritualistic religious behavior. Face-to-face-alone-with-God is foundational. 

I have found that after lonely time with God I pray better in crowds. Both the Scriptures and the history of Christian spirituality support this.