Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Find a Lonely Place to Pray

Pine trees in my front yard, in the days when
snow fell during a Michigan winter.
When we lived in East Lansing one of my favorite places to go alone to pray and keep company with God was 40 feet up a 60 foot pine tree in a local forest preserve. The tree branches were thick, numerous, and like steps ascending to the heights. There, I sat on two branches made by God for just my body. One day I tied a leather bracelet I had made and was wearing to a branch. It should still be there. I've occasionally thought of going back, climbing up, and re-claiming my bracelet.

Up in this tree I felt alone with God. I spent many hours there praying. I loved it when a breeze would move the tree. Inwardly, I was being moved by God's Spirit. This, for me, was a "lonely place apart."

When I assign students to pray I insist that they find a place to do this apart from their home, work place, car, iPad, and texting-machine (cell phone). Call such a place a "lonely place." Why?
  1. Jesus found "lonely places," away from people and distractions, to pray.
  2. In the history of Christian spirituality, serious praying was mostly done in "lonely places" such as, e.g., the desert.
The experience of prayer, of being alone with God, just you and God, is different when you are not surrounded by your friends and all your stuff.

I like what James Houston writes: "Prayer is the determination to be alone before God, with no gallery to play to and no distracting comparisons to make." (The Transforming Power of Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God, 21)