A Solitary Place
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35, NIV)
The above verse from Mark's Gospel is one that I've always been fascinated by, and it has served as a source of inspiration for me more than once.
In this verse, we get a glimpse into the private life of Jesus, which is significant because most of what we see throughout the Gospel witnesses is his very public ministry.
And what do we see exactly?
We see how vital solitude and prayer were for Jesus. We see how he got up early in the morning to do both---knowing that he needed to do so before his disciples awoke and noticed he was gone.
Once they woke up, Jesus' disciples immediately went looking for him with the message: "Everyone is looking for you!" And then, Jesus was off to teach, heal, minister to those in need, and much more.
He needed to be alone to pray and nurture his inner life because the demands on him would be great. Jesus paid attention to his soul, ensuring he took the time for self-care and connection with the Divine.
For many of us, being alone and praying before starting our day or preparing for a demanding season is overwhelming thought at times. We tend to work harder when we know we will be busy. We also shy away from being alone with our thoughts, fearing where they might lead us.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote:
“…it is easier to sail many thousand miles through cold
and storm and cannibals, in a government ship with five
hundred men and boys to assist one, than it is to explore
the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one’s being alone.”
Thoreau's assertion has been so true in my life, despite the many lessons I've learned from practicing solitude and prayer in the moments when I've created space for both.
For the past seven years, I have done my very best to spend my early morning hours in quiet solitude. I use that time to pray, listen to one of several devotional podcasts that I subscribe to, read inspiring books, journal from time to time, and of course, write these daily devotions.
I can always tell when I don't get to engage in these essential practices. My mind is less at ease, I have a hard time feeling at peace, and I tend to focus more on doing than being.
I also get how easy it is to let these practices go when the demands on my time are high or when I have tasks that need to be finished on a deadline.
However, when we don't take the time to seek solitude for prayer, reflection, and rest, we aren't nearly as productive as when we do. It seems like a paradox. By doing less, we can accomplish more.
The great 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther once said that he prayed for one hour a day unless he was busy and then would pray for three hours.
This kind of counter-intuitive notion is what we need right now in our lives, especially in a culture that constantly impresses upon us the idea that if we're not moving and doing, we won't ever live up to our potential.
May you find space in your day today to be in solitude and quiet. May you find the time to pray and communicate your longings and frustrations to God. May you discover the peace that comes from caring for yourself and finding new connections to the Divine.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.