Monday, September 16, 2013

Prayer & Monotasking (PrayerLife)

Wilderness of Judea

Thomas Merton wrote: "Contemplation and sanctity are to be found in a desolation where there is no food and no shelter and no refreshment for their imagination and intellect and for the desires of their nature." (New Seeds of Contemplation)

What does this mean?

When I assign students and pastors in my Spiritual Formation classes to pray for one hour a day, I instruct them to pray in a place away from their homes and offices. Biblically and historically, extended, serious times of prayer were always done in "lonely places." (Luke 5:16) If you spend these times in familiar places, such as your office or home, chances are you will end up multi-tasking, and multi-tasking is the enemy of real relationship. Your office contains too many familiar things. What's needed is some "desolation."

When you regularly pray in a place where nothing is associated with you and your work you will find your prayer experience, in the long run, to be different. You will, for example, begin to feel unneeded, and this is good. It is good because it is true; viz., you are not needed, at least when it comes to God and his purposes. God can then use this lonely, desolate time to purge you of the illusion of your indispensibility. That will be very good. It will be at that point that you become more wieldable to God. (God loves you, and wants you to love him in return. This loving of God is an active thing that leads to discipleship and servanthood. Should we choose not to actively love God this will grieve God's heart. This will be our great loss. But our nonservanthood to God will not stop God's kingdom movement. It is in this sense that you and I are not indispensable to God.)

Praying in a lonely place that is disconnected from the perks of this world breeds trust in God, since all other objects of trust and idolatry have been removed. It was not by accident that the Spirit directed Jesus into the desert, where Satan tempted him. Minus earth's pleasures, the soul will only be able to find its satiation in God.

Get your soul and body out to a lonely place and meet with your God. Monotask with God.