“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” ~excerpted from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:6, The Message
For centuries, spiritual teachers and seekers have told us to find quiet places for prayer and contemplation. So much so, that spiritual enlightenment and seeking God is big business. Google “Remote places to pray” and you’ll find any number of listings of tourist destinations for spiritual seekers. Many remote places to pray become about travel and tourism, rather than simply seeking God.
This excerpt from Matthew encourages us to go off alone to pray in quiet places away from other people – away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives – to be alone seeking God and God’s grace. I have any number of quiet, soul-filled places in my area in North Carolina that I love to hike to and sit in meditation and prayer: Duke Forest, Eno River, Duke Gardens, the Johnson Mill Reserve, NC Botanical Gardens, and the NC Museum of Art.
In my own life though, it is difficult to always find the time to get in the car and drive, then hike to one of these locations. I’m busy and I like being busy. Often, it is through the communal prayer times at church that I find the space I need to pray. I take full advantage of this time in my schedule. I find solace and comfort praying in community.
Praying in Community:
I’m blessed to work and worship at a church in Chapel Hill, NC. As staff and congregation, we seek to create space where people come together in fellowship, as well as hold one another in prayer. We seek solace and comfort in knowing we’ve found a place that welcomes us, where we can go, and not feel alone.
Our world is fraught with dangers. We live in grave, serious times, full of uncertainty and strife. Even at church there’s been conflict and division that’s been disruptive and painful. But in praying with and for one another, it’s our hope that we are building deeper and more meaningful relationships members of our church family – a place where we do not feel alone amidst the strife of our world.
Praying for One Another in Times of Strife:
Within my community of friends and family, many people I know are suffering from anxiety, fear, PTSD, mental anguish, stress, insomnia, physical pain, chronic fatigue and more. If you are affected by any of these struggles, please know, you are not alone.
We live in anxiety producing times politically, nationally, and globally. Our world isn’t safe. We aren’t safe. Our futures are not secure. Just look at what’s going on with the Coronavirus – we now are living under a threat of epidemic and this was NOT even news two weeks ago. And, there are any number of issues that seem to threaten all the time. We are constantly bombarded with bad news – and not just on TV. We live through the bad news in our own personal lives – the illness and death of a loved one, a lost job and unemployment, a separation and ultimate divorce, hearing about violence towards a beloved friend, bad weather, loneliness, and so on…
Whereas there is merit in seeking out places where we can rest alone with God in prayer, I believe praying together in a loving community can be just as renewing to us on our spiritual journeys, especially in these times. We need to be constantly lifting up the people around us. We can’t afford to be isolated and alone. We need community and we need prayer.
Communal prayer within community can be a joy-filled arena to practice love and kindness toward ourselves, our friends and neighbors, our families, as well as strangers within our communities. We can pray together in times of strife, as well as rejoicing in the good and joyous. We lift each other up in a world that often seems against us.
In this Lenten journey, let us “simply pray.” If you find comfort in quiet secluded places, then pray. If you seek solace and prayer within the comfort of your faith community, then do so. But let’s pray, because we are children of God, and ultimately, we are all in this together.
May God bless this meditation.
Oh holy Spirit, we wish to feel your Grace working in our lives and uplift the pain and struggle of those in our communities. With your guidance, may we uplift, support, and love one another. May we ease the burden of our friends and neighbors through prayer and support, and reassure them that they “are not alone.”
If you are feeling alone during these days of strife and uncertainty, please feel free to drop a line, I will add you to my personal daily prayers. May you find peace of mind and spirit. Blessings!