Am I ever really alone anymore? I mean, The Almighty aside, how often do I truly find seclusion? There are plenty of times that I am physically alone–no other people in the room or in the building…
…but, I have my phone that connects me to hundreds of people in almost that many ways.
…but, I have my laptop that connects me to my classmates and church members.
…and also? I just never really have to stop and ponder and think and dream because I always have something to do! I can check my email. I can update facebook. I can tweet and instagram and crush candy and google any question that comes to mind.
I very much value the technology that connects me to people I love and keeps me in the loop where I otherwise might get disconnected from the lives of high school and college friends I no longer see regularly. My phone, this week, has brought me updates on a friend having surgery and all of the things going on in the lives of youth group kids I care about who are out of school because of snow. Technology allows me to share my thoughts and keep an online journal here at this site. It is making a Masters of Divinity degree possible at this stage in my life. This is not a “down with technology” post!
Yet, what I have realized is if I don’t intentionally make time to be alone without my phone and technology, I do not give my attention, thought, and prayer fully. And I am a person who needs to find time to be alone with my thoughts and my prayer time.
Jesus valued being alone. He was accustomed to having crowds of people follow him and almost always had some of his group of twelve disciples with him, but there were times he left them all behind to go be alone and pray. Just a couple of weeks ago in Church, we read from Mark 1:35-45, which starts this way:
In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
While I was at UDTS for January term, I met regularly with my Spiritual Formation Group. We discussed the book by Gary Hansen that I shared about last month and practiced many different ways to pray together, but one that I really liked and knew I needed to practice regularly is The Examen. This practice was formally brought to the church by St. Ignatius of Loyola, but there is no doubt that many Christians practice it regularly in informal ways as it is just a great way to pray.
The Jesuits pray The Examen daily (twice a day, even). I pray daily, but have set aside Fridays as my day to put away my phone and laptop and pray The Examen. I have a notebook (pictured above) designated just for this. To help me focus, I start with a blank piece of paper and then as I begin I write headings on the paper. Last week, it was “done” and “not done,” “loved” and “failed to love,” “seen” and “heard,” and “obedience” and “disobedience.” I write in those columns, and on the back, and usually outside the lines. As things come to mind, I write them down and as mental distractions creep in, I make a note and set them aside. I also have a “worksheet” that helps guide me as I consider the week behind me and look to the week ahead.
So today is the day I pray my Examen. Alone with my busy mind, reflecting and listening for God to speak. How will you pray on this third day of Lent?