“In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35, NRSVue)
We live in a world that values productivity. The more we produce, the more value others assign to us as if we’re human “doings” instead of human “beings.” We burn the midnight oil to accomplish more; however, we’re still expected to get up early because the “early bird catches the worm.” Taking time to care for ourselves is interpreted as laziness or selfishness. As a result, we are tired, irritable, angry, and probably not as productive as we could be if we learned the importance of “shutting down” on a routine basis.
Stephen Covey, years ago, in his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” wrote about the importance of taking time to sharpen our saws because we can’t cut as much with a dull saw. Athletes work “rest days” into their strenuous workout regimen to allow their muscles time to rest and rebuild, making them even stronger. Jesus knew the importance of spending time away from the fray of everyday life, and we have several examples in scripture where he would go off by himself to spend time with God. If Jesus needs solitude and quiet time spent with God, what makes us think we can do without some of the same discipline of shutting down and connecting with our Maker? Replenishing our spirits is a requirement for healthy living.
Lent is a great time to focus on spending time alone with God and listening to his voice. Over forty days (not including Sundays), we can set aside time daily to connect with God and experience his refreshing and renewing presence in our lives. God is always with us; however, what is often missing is our awareness of his presence. We tend to call on God when we’re having a tough time and ignore him when things are going well. We can increase our awareness of his presence by setting aside a specific time each day to focus our hearts and minds on him. By practicing awareness of God’s presence, we’ll more readily experience his presence throughout the day, even when we’re not intentionally focusing on him. This experience is the nature of the spiritual disciplines that help us train our senses to pick up on God’s eternal companionship.
I hope you’ll join me in the Lenten discipline of contemplative prayer using “In the Presence of Jesus: A 40-Day Guide to the Intimacy with God You’ve Always Wanted” by Paul Bane and Matt Litton. Beginning February 14th, daily readings include scripture, reflection, and prayer. I’ll also offer a brief daily reflection on Facebook to accompany your reading. This resource provides an excellent opportunity to grow your relationship with God, and I hope you’ll join me.
I hope to see you on Sunday and don’t forget to invite your friends!