Saturday, July 26, 2014

Praying in the Tent of Unfamiliarity (Prayer Summer 2014)

Monroe County

In my spiritual formation classes my main assignment is: go apart to a "lonely place" for one hour a day, five days a week, and pray. We read that Jesus had the habit of going early in the morning to a "place apart" to pray: Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 6:17)

These "lonely places" are, for us today, away from our homes, church buildings, cell phones, and places of work. Praying in a lonely place gives one a spiritual edge because distractions have been minimized. All the stuff that defines us and calls for our attention are missing, freeing us to better attend to the Lord. In my Monroe community I have several such lonely places. I'm going to one today, to attend.

Francis Frangipane, in "The Tent of Meeting," calls the lonely prayer place "the place of unfamiliarity." (Frangipane, And I Will Be Found By You, Ch. 1) He uses Exodus 33:7 to illustrate: 

 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, 
calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go 
to the tent of meeting outside the camp.

The "camp" was "the camp of familiarity." The tent of meeting (meeting God) was outside the camp of familiarity. Everyone who sought the Lord would "go out." Frangipane writes: "If we are going to truly seek the Lord we must "go out" as did Moses" and others did. (13) "We must pitch our tent 'a good distance from the camp'." Moses knew that "our human nature is governed by the influences of the familiar. If He is to expand us to receive the eternal, He must rescue us from the limitations of the temporal." (Ib.)

Those who seek after God and His presence will find the time to do this. We find time for what we desire. Desire always leads to finding time; those who don't find time to get alone with God in the tent of meeting don't desire. Such desire cannot be manufactured. One either has it or one does not. When it is there, it is a gift from God. Such people are aflame with the need for God and His earth-shattering presence.

I like how Frangipane expresses this. He writes:

"If we set our priorities right, we will discover that God has given everyone enough time to seek Him. After having done what love would have us do for our families, we simply say "no" to every other voice but God's. We redeem our time: cancel hobbies, forsake television and the Internet, put away the newspapers and magazines. Those who truly desire God - find time." (13-14)

What sort of spiritual creature would desire the Internet more than God? One answer: someone who has not yet been introduced to God, by experience. In this way my spiritual formation classes serve as an introduction or re-introduction to God.

All who desire God will today be found praying in the tent of unfamiliarity, the tent of meeting.