Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Lk. 5:16)
In this time of forced isolation, we find ourselves in different kinds of settings. Some of us are completely alone - in a home on our own. Others of us are with only another. Some are stuck with roommates. Many live in family units where there are parents, children (of varying ages), and even grandparents.
One of the consistent messages we've been hearing during this COVID-19 pandemic is to, while remaining separate from each other, reach out to others using the phone, video chat, and/or social media. We don't want anyone, during this time of physical isolation, to experience social isolation. (The other consistent message, of course, is WASH YOUR HANDS!!!)
But in times of forced isolation and our constant encouragement to find ways to connect with other, it may be easy for us to neglect the importance of chosen isolation for the purpose of connecting with God. If you aren't in a home where you're by yourself, this season may actually make it more difficult to find time alone with God. Here are a few ideas which may help you maintain this essential part of your life:
- Schedule your meeting with God. Many of us have our routines completely undone. It may be helpful for you to schedule time with God daily. Whether it is a five-minute appointment or a one-hour meeting but we're more likely to do things if it's in our calendar. Set a specific time and a specific place where you can be (mostly) free from distractions and keep the appointment. I find it helpful to make a cup of tea for me to enjoy while in my "meeting" with God!
- Communicate what you are doing. If there are others in your house, this may be essential for you to actually minimize distractions. Let your spouse or your children know what you are doing and why. Communicate how long you expect your appointment with God will be and kindly ask them not to interrupt. This communication of your hopes and expectations of them will be invaluable to them meeting those expectations. (It isn't right or fair to expect things of others without communicating those expectations!)
- Keep it consistent. By doing the same thing at the same time in the same place each day not only will we get used to it, but so will the others in our household. It will become a part of the family routine, not just yours. Parents - you will also be modeling something beautiful for your children (if you've communicated what you are doing!).
- Make (or adopt) a plan. Some of you are working through our BIC Canada Lenten devotional. That is great for the next 1 1/2 weeks, but it would be good to plan beyond that. You could plan to spend a chunk of time each day reading through the gospels. You could read a Psalm each day and spend time reflecting on it (maybe even journal your reflections). Or there are online tools you could explore. I wouldn't dare attempt an extensive list of what is available, but here are a couple of online tools/apps to consider:
- http://commonprayer.net/ - This is the online home for Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Originally published as a daily prayer book it is now available online and as a free app on Apple and Android. It includes Daily Prayers, a rotation of seven Midday Prayers, and a consistent Evening Prayer. You are free to use as much or as little of this as you'd like. The app includes a notification setting to remind you to take the time with God.
- Our Daily Bread - Many of you already use the little book which is published every three months. You can access the same content online at https://odb.org/. There's even an option to have it sent to your inbox.
- Lectio 365 (https://www.24-7prayer.com/dailydevotional) - This app (available for Apple and Android) walks the listener/reader through the acronym PRAY every day. Each day you: Pause to be still. Rejoice with a Psalm and Reflect on Scripture. Ask for God’s help. And Yield to His will in your life. The well-narrated reading (with different global accents) and gentle background music help to create space in the listeners' minds and hearts.
- Use headphones. If you are distracted by sounds, having headphones on can block those sounds out. It may also help to put on some white or pink noise or some instrumental music (look up "studying music" playlists).
As much as your extended family and your boss want to hear from you today, God longs to spend time with you so that he can fill you and sustain you. He's not going to text you to demand it. He's not going to invite you to a Zoom meeting. He simply invites you to come away with him by yourself to a quiet place to pray. I'm writing this because I needed this reminder to accept that invitation. I hope and pray you will, too.