READ: Matthew 6:5,6
Jesus continued, “And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites. They love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. In truth, I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to the Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:5,6
So much of my LONG life as a Pastor involved praying before people in houses of worship and at special occasions in the town square. I have prayed before congregations numbering from ten to three thousand; I have prayed before Governors and City Commissioners; I have prayed in football stadiums on the day of the big game and I have prayed on the air waves to thousands of unseen souls out there in Radio Land. Looking back, some of that praying was for good purpose, while some of it probably would have been better off, left undone. Here within the Cloister of Greyfriars’ Abbey, most of my prayers nowadays are either prayers shared in common with my intimate monastic community or prayers uttered in the solitude of the private place. And I must say … my present prayer life is far richer and deeper than it ever was in my former days of being far too busy.
The maturing of one’s prayer life – for reasons I do not yet completely understand – requires more time spent in that private place, that prayer closet, that private room where the wonder of Solitude might come upon your soul. Somehow … prayer in that secret, private place brings a certain, most necessary something to the quality of our spirituality.
Way back when .. I recall an episode in the original Star Trek television series which speaks to the process of “finding the Solitude-that-slowly-comes-upon-you“. In that Star Trek episode, Mr. Spock was trying to find a stowaway on board the Enterprise. He ordered that the ship’s “microphones” be tuned to pick up only the heartbeats on board and broadcast them over the speakers. Through the magic of Star Trek technology, Dr. McCoy was able to eliminate the heartbeats of the members of the crew, one by one. As he took his amazing device and placed it over each crew member’s heart, that heartbeat was silenced. As he did this, the number of heartbeats became fewer and fewer. He kept eliminating heartbeats until all the crew members’ heartbeats were silenced … but yet, after all the crew’s heartbeats had been silenced, one solitary heartbeat remained … the heartbeat of the unseen someone.
When we practice the prayer of extended Solitude, one by one, the voices of the world about us slowly drop away … and then one by one, the voices chattering within our thoughts and our memories slowly drop away … eventually our own mental chattering grows silent … until we reach that quality of Silence where we can begin to hear the one heartbeat of the Unseen Someone which was lost among all the many voices of the crowd with which we live. And then … there in that place of Holy Quiet … we can hear that one heartbeat, the heartbeat of God … then the Solitude-that-slowly-comes-upon-you brings you heart-to-heart with God and you find yourself one-on-one with the Lord.
Somehow I believe that Solitude was well-known and thus more easily practiced by ancient shepherds. I believe that Solitude was well-known by fishermen spending hours by a lonely fishing hole and by hunters searching through the forest and by farmers plowing the long furrows in the fields and by preachers traveling by horseback the many, slow miles as they journeyed from town to town. But nowadays … the Noise is everywhere … an angry beast that keeps killing off the Silence and fending off the Solitude. Too many TV channels, too many talking heads, too many commentators, too many mp3 players, too many taped lectures, too many elevators filled with Muzak –all this as if we had decided to wage a relentless, never-ending war against the Silence and the Solitude-That-Slowly-Comes-Upon-You.
In the Gospels, it indicates that Jesus often withdrew into the private places, to be by Himself. I am thinking that He went there so He might find that Private Place to Pray, so that the treasured yet elusive Solitude might have a chance to find Him. Apparently Christ needed that prayer life only found in the Solitude. And I would guess – we lesser souls – probably need that Solitude all the more. So, my Loved Ones, we need to carve out more sacred times and places in our lifetimes where the Silence has a chance to lead us slowly into that Solitude-That-Comes-Upon-Us … where we can hear, finally hear, the heartbeat of God and the whispers of His soul.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).