Solitude and Prayer
April 28, 1996
Brother John Raymond
The example and teacher of prayer par excellence is Our Lord. It
is interesting to note that the apostles, who were familiar with
prayer according to the tradition of their people, should say to
Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." (Lk. 11,1) There must have been
something different about the way Our Lord prayed.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Our Lord often
went apart into a lonely place, a place set apart, to pray in
solitude. Many times He prayed at night, even all night. (Cf. Mk.
1:35;6,46; Lk. 5,16)
Some years ago I received the grace of visiting the Holy Land.
Our pilgrim group stayed near the Sea of Galilee. Close to our hotel
was a rather high hill where we were told Jesus most likely prayed
before choosing the twelve apostles. I decided to climb the rather
steep hill, alone. Jesus must have been in good shape to climb it. I
made it close to the top as dusk settled over the countryside. I had
plans of perhaps staying there part of the night. Before darkness
settled around me it was a magnificent view. Jesus must have liked
the quiet, the stars, looking out over the sea, etc. when praying to
His Father. I prayed there for vocations to our community. But as
the dark enveloped me I didn't like being alone on a hill at night.
I think I should have stuck to Jesus' teaching rather than His
example and stayed in my room, closed the door and prayed to my
Heavenly Father who sees in secret! I decided to get back to the
hotel__easier said that done. I had a little penlight flashlight to
help me see to descend. But as I made my way down the hill in the
dark I saw large shapes moving around below. Just my luck, someone
had let their herd of cows out to graze on the hillside. Fortunately
I made it down the hill, crept over and under barbed wire, crossed
strangers' properties and arrived safely to the hotel.
Should we imitate Our Lord in praying on mountain tops all night?
From my experience I think it's better to stick to your room. I
think for those who grow up in cities "roughing it" can be rough. It
reminds me of someone I know who went camping and brought their
electric blanket__they forgot to bring a very long extension cord!
Is Our Lord trying to teach us something about praying in
solitude? I am sure He is. We know Jesus was in constant communion
with His Father all day long. We know that He labored among men all
day long. Certainly Jesus would have been mobbed all night long if
He didn't go off to pray. Yet, Jesus went off into quiet places to
pray even before He was well known and pursued by the crowds. Then
why did He do this? The central reason among many possible ones for
me is intimacy__yes, intimacy. I am sure you have heard the old
saying, "Three's a crowd." (Of course this saying can't apply in
God's case!) Jesus at times even left the companionship of His own
disciples to pray. But the point is that we, as adopted sons of Our
Heavenly Father, need to set aside time for praying in solitude.
One could ask, "How am I supposed to find solitude in a downtown
New York apartment?" You can. It may involve a little sacrifice,
though. You may have to pray at a late hour or early in the morning.
You may have to find a closet to hide in. It can be done! John
Wesley's mother, who had many children, used to pray an hour each
day with her apron over her head! Perhaps light a candle. Place
yourself in your Heavenly Father's presence and have an intimate
conversation. Oh, but I forgot the most important part before you
begin__ask Jesus, "Lord teach me how to pray."