Monday, June 06, 2016

Howard Thurman and the Need to Be Alone with God

Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

Howard Thurman writes: "There is no argument needed for the necessity of taking time out for being alone, for withdrawal, for being quiet without and still within. The sheer physical necessity is urgent because the body and the entire nervous system cry out for the healing waters of silence. One could not begin the cultivation of the prayer life at a more practical point than deliberately to seek each day, and several times a day, a lull in the rhythm of daily doing, a period when nothing happens that demands active participation...

...At first the quiet times might be quite barren or a retreat from exhaustion. One has to get used to the stillness even after it has been achieved. The time may be used for taking stock, for examining one's life direction, one's plans, one's relations, and the like. This in itself is most profitable. It is like cleaning out the closets, or the desk drawers, and getting things in order.

The time may be used for focusing or re-focusing one's purposes in the light of what at first may be only one's idea of the best and the highest. Then quiet changes begin to take place. Somewhere along the way, one's idea of the best and the highest takes on a transcendent character and one begins to commune, to communicate with one's idea of the best and the highest - only a man does not talk to, or with, an idea. When the awareness of God comes in - how He entered, one does not know - one is certain that he has been there all the time. This assurance is categorical and becomes the very core of one's faith; indeed, it becomes more and more one's faith." (Thurman, Meditations of the Heart, 27-28)

I love how Thurman puts the idea of getting still in the presence of God.
  • Withdraw daily from the rat-race of life
  • Get still in your heart
  • Your physical body cries out for such heart-and-space stillness
  • Take time to "do nothing" but be with God
  • If you're new at this, tiredness and exhaustion will take over, and the God-times may seem barren and dry
  • Our world does not train us for this kind of stillness, so it takes getting used-to
  • Once achieved as a lifestyle it becomes the gateway to the Source of Life
  • In the stillness be examined by God, as you engage in listening prayer
  • In the stillness "spring cleaning" happens every day (there's a lot of useless garbage in the human heart, which accrues in inverse proportion to the amount of "still time" with God)
  • Then... God breaks in, creativity happens, life results, energy gets retored, purpose gets defined, direction is given, transcendence takes over, and one communes (dwells/abides) with God
My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God is available HERE and as a Kindle book HERE
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