Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Discipline of Prayerful Solitude

One of my favorite writers, Henri Nouwen, describes prayer as a "furnace of transformation." When I speak to God, time flies. When I read Scripture, the clock hands spin. But when I prayerfully wait in silence for Him, I enter the furnace. I feel the thick bog of impatience & distraction suck my mind's legs into a muck of resistance & rebellion. Each click of my watch, each breath I take feels pushed forward only with the arduous effort of burdensome discipline. I look at the clock to see if my time of waiting has come to the end... 2 minutes have passed... only 2 minutes. I bow. I look again... Now 7 minutes. I am a pastor, for crying out loud! Why is this so difficult for me? (...ah, the voice of pride...)

In The Way of the Heart, Nouwen writes, "In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding; no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me - naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful… As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in banana trees. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces. I give long hostile speeches to my enemies, and dream lustful dreams where I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive… Thus I try to restore my false self in all its vainglory." (The Way of the Heart, HarperSanFrancisco, 1991, p 15.)

Waiting ... is ... very ... hard.

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