Monday, March 04, 2019

Withdraw to Lonely Places

(Cancun - 3/2/19)

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 encourage my seminary students to find a "lonely place" to withdraw to and pray. Find a praying place apart from 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 is experientially different than praying in a place of familiarity. Here's an analogy. Linda and I have many times gone on a date (even while married) wanting to talk, alone, without distractions, face to face. This helps sustain our marital intimacy. Similarly, face-to-face time with God is needed to sustain one's spiritual life. 

I have some lonely places in our Monroe community. I retreat to one of these places, bringing 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 is where God meets me, and morphs my subhumanity into true humanity. 

Face-to-face-alone-with-God is foundational for togetherness with others. After lonely times with God I am better with people. 

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

I'm working on:

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (I am editing this book, hopefully out in June 2019)

How God Changes the Human Heart.

Technology and Spiritual Formation.

Relationships (Linda and I will co-write this together)