I forgot how dependent I was on the web until our power went out for the entire day. Our phones could not get any signal. There was apparently some sort of wind storm and we could not send or receive emails, texts or calls. We could not get on the web either.
It was very disconcerting.
Being connected to the world at large through our phones and our other mobile devices has become a way of life for us. Even my children would rather look at the weather forecast on my phone than go outside and feel the fresh air. Whether it is needed for work email, or facebook, or getting driving directions, a day without connectivity would feel like torture.
This constant connectivity has a parallel in our spiritual lives as well. Our souls are built to be connected all the time. And prayer is how we stay connected to God.
“Pray without ceasing” This is how the New Testament puts it. Live your life in constant communication with God. There is no place you can go where God cannot hear you.
Psalm 139 says
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence”
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in the grave, you are there!”
Praying is what we were created for.
You can see it in the beginning. Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). Being human meant spending time in relationship with God.
You can see it in the end. In heaven this is exactly what we will be doing. John writes about life after death, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with humanity. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3).
So why don’t we pray more?
One reason is that our lives are filled with distractions, busyness and lack of solitude.
In her book, The Call of Solitude, Ester Buchholz, Ph.D. says, “The need for genuine and constructive aloneness has gotten utterly lost, and, in the process, so have we… Now, more than ever, we need our solitude.”
Solitude was something Jesus himself practiced. The gospel writers all include stories of Jesus getting alone for prayer.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35
"And after he had dismissed the crowds he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone," -Matthew 14:23
"But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray." Luke 5:16
A Huffington Post article titled “The 10 Important Reasons to Start Making Time for Silence, Rest and Solitude” makes this same point.
“They’re an endangered species: silence and solitude; yet great revelations and benefits are found in them.”
I used to have an easy time finding solitude when I was young and single. But now that I am married with four young kids and one teenager, it seems solitude is harder to find.
But if prayer is what we were made for, then we have to push through this difficulty and make time for it.
In an interview on prayer recently Tim Keller gave his insight on this difficulty. Tim says “my wife used an illustration on me: If the doctor said you have a fatal condition, and unless you take this medicine every night from 11:00 to 11:15, and swallow these pills, you will be dead by morning. If that was the case, she said, you would never miss. You would never say, I was too tired, or, I didn’t get to it, or, I was watching a movie, and I didn’t leave time. You never would do that.”
Here are some places I have found in Seattle and around the Eastside where you could find some solitude for prayer
1) Larsen Lake in Bellevue has a path around it and several secluded spots where you can sit and pray. 14812 SE 8th St, Bellevue, WA 98007
2) Chapel of St. Ignatius in Seattle is an amazing chapel for prayer. (https://www.seattleu.edu/chapel/) It is open
Monday - Thursday: 7:00 am - 10:00 pm
Friday: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am - 10:00 pm
They do a Catholic midday mass at 12:30pm but otherwise the chapel is quiet, empty and a great place to kneel, read, and pray.
3) Gene Coulon Park in Renton1201 Lake Washington Blvd N, Renton, WA 98056 If you park at the North end there are several benches overlooking the waters of Lake Washington as well as a walking path along the shore.
4) Issaquah Highlands Central Park South Pond Loop Trail in Issaquah. 1907 NE Park Dr, Issaquah, WA 98029. The South Pond, which is part of Central park, is off of the beaten path and a great place to walk and pray. http://your.kingcounty.gov/ftp/gis/Web/VMC/recreation/BCT_GrandRidge_brochure.pdf
5) Newcastle Beach Park in Newcastle 4400 Lake Washington Blvd SE
Bellevue, WA right on the shores of lake Washington with a dock that stretches out into the lake and a sandy beach where you can often see bald eagles.
These are places you can go for solitude and prayer.But you can also use an empty conference room, or your deck.
Finding solitude is important for those times that I would call, "Retreat Prayer". These are blocks of prayer that last an hour or more. Most of us would do well to aim for a time of Retreat Prayer like this once a month. If you have kids, you and your spouse can trade off who is watching the kids while you send the other one away.
In the next post I will talk more about "Regular Prayer" those short one sentence or 1 minute prayers that we carry on in the midst of our everyday life while we work, while we play, and while we shuffle from one obligation to the next.
For now, I challenge you to get out your phone and look for a time in the next few weeks when you can schedule some Retreat Prayer to get alone and pray. It doesn't need to be one of these places listed above. It could be a room in your house, or a sidewalk in your neighborhood.
Connect by praying the Psalms.
Psalm 9 is a good place to start.
"Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”