Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
- Mark 1:35, NIV
During my recent time off, part of my Continuing Education was spent at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. The spiritual retreat I attended lasted from Monday to Thursday. In addition to six presentations on "The Spirituality of Imperfection", we were invited to pray with the monks at 4:00 a.m., 7:00 a.m., 12:20 p.m., 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Each time of prayer was a service of singing, scripture reading, a few words, and sometimes communion.
As you might imagine, starting my day at 3:30 a.m. was new for me -- but of all the times I went to prayer, the 4:00 a.m. services were the most meaningful to me. After some brief singing and scripture reading, there were 30 minutes of silent prayer. You might think I was tempted to fall back asleep, but surprisingly that became a time in which nothing else seemed to claim my attention except God. Maybe it was because no one else was awake at that time - except those of us gathered together to pray. Our part of the world seemed like it had yet to get busy, so the stillness allowed some moments of deep communion with God.
Since that time, I have been starting most of my weekdays by getting up at 5:00 a.m. to pray. (4:00 a.m. still seems a little early for me - at least for now.) I can see why Mark's gospel tells us about the time Jesus got up before dawn to pray. There is something special about focusing on reading scripture and praying for others that establishes a spiritual foundation for my day even before it begins. It doesn't mean the day is without challenges -- I just feel better equipped to face them. (If you are looking for a good online resource, the PCUSA's "Daily Prayer" app is what I am using now.)
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, whatever the time of day, wherever we are, you have promised to be there. Open us up and slow us down enough to focus on you. Fill us with your Spirit this day. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.