Quote of the Day
“For me prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” — St. Therese of Lisieux, As quoted at https://www.usccbA.org/prayer-and-worship by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Today’s 99-Word Contemplation
The young man could only see a few feet in front of himself. The fog was thick. He enjoys his quiet walks on these crisp and murky mornings. They’re his favorite. He strolls down the wooded trail alone seeking spiritual growth. Here, on this path, hidden by nature’s smoke-like veil, he can privately fortify his relationship with his Heavenly Father. He can sing praises to God or be angry with Him. He can ask Him for favors or for His forgiveness. Here, he can simply experience the reciprocity of love that a son can only know with his Father.
I do love a foggy morning walk, don’t you? There appears something of a mystery that lays ahead, just out of sight, that draws you into it – like the mysteries of God are in there or something. I find that irresistible.
That said, there is an important message in today’s 99-word contemplation, and that message is clear: We all need a place where we can go to God and hide “in secret” and build a deeper and more meaningful Father and child relationship with Him. And we need to go to that place regularly, if not frequently. A place that draws us into it in a prayerful manner.
My mother and father were protestants who were deeply devoted to serving God. I remember them kneeling beside their bed to pray before retiring each evening. And their prayers were devout, sometimes lengthy, and oftentimes quite emotionally driven.
They had, and continue to have, a huge influence on how I experience my Christian life today. For example, as an adult convert to Catholicism, I find myself holding on to some of those Protestant habits that many Catholics (though certainly not all) have not acquired a taste for. I like to read and memorize scripture versus that are meaningful to me, I like to pray on my knees beside the bed like my parents did, and I like to attend church services (i.e., Mass) more than once a week just to name a few.
I never thought about it much as a child, but now I find myself wondering – where did my parents go to pray in secret? Where did they hide, like our young friend on the foggy trail, to seek personal spiritual growth to further bolster their relationship with their Heavenly Father? After all, Jesus instructs us,
“But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”— Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:6
I am sure both my mother and father had their own secret places and regular routines, for they were known throughout their church as “prayer warriors” that members would call upon night and day when a special need was presented.
If my parents were still alive I’d be tempted to ask them to let me in on their secrets. It is really none of my business though – otherwise, it wouldn’t be a secret, would it? I’m just so curious, though, now that I am in search of my own meaningful locations that can fit into my hectic daily schedule.
Here are seven suggestions of places you can meet with God privately and peacefully in order to work on your Father and child relationship with him. He truly does long for that intimacy with you as much as you long for it with Him. In fact, he desires it even more so than you. Why? Because He created you personally, just as you are, baggage and all, just so you can spend eternity with him!
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
On nature walks
Like our young man featured in today’s reflection, taking a walk in nature is an excellent method of uniting with God by means of your prayerful spirit. It is in this environment you will find all living things reaching upward, praising God, doing exactly what He created them to do, being exactly what He created them to be. No false pretenses are found in nature.
When you join this crazy cacophony of sights and sounds it somehow all comes together in a harmonious chorus of praise and worship. You find yourself at the very center of creation where it all originated at the beginning of time. What a perfect location to grow in your relationship with your Heavenly father. Your secret prayers here are lifted to heaven in union with all of His creation. How could God help but be pleased to reveal his Fatherly love to you here?
At a retreat center
Spending time in silence at a retreat center provides more time for prayer and contemplation than most other locations can offer. No one there disturbs you, room and board are typically provided for overnight guests (or you can just enjoy a day trip), and you have time to empty your mind of all the daily distractions and noises and secretly pray to your Heavenly Father to your hearts content.
A silent retreat clears you mind, improves your focus, and allows you to maintain a proper perspective of your real priorities. And building a better parent and child relationship with God should be at the top of everyone’s priority list.
Listed below in ‘Today’s Supporting Links for Additional Meditation’ can be found a link to an article entitled 10 Great Places to Take a Prayer Retreat. This article describes abbeys and monasteries that, if you happen to live near one of them, offer another prime location to spend private time in prayer with God. Of course, there as hundreds of retreat centers not reviewed in this article, so be sure to contact your local parish to find a retreat center near you if this is an option that interests you and fits into your schedule.
Sitting in your vehicle
For a quick getaway that allows for a few minutes of secret prayer, you may find that sitting in your vehicle in a relatively quiet location provides you just the freedom and opportunity you were searching for. Perhaps you can volunteer to run to the grocery store for your family. Once parked, take a few minutes to secretly pray before heading inside.
Another option that may work well is a church parking lot (when a service is not scheduled). There are typically few distractions when the church itself is vacant of parishioners, and just being in the presence of God’s house will likely help you transition into a prayerful spirit more promptly and more completely.
I am positive you can find many locations that work perfectly well for you in your neighborhood. Just remember to park somewhere you deem safe so you can eliminate any stress-related distractions which could stand between you and God. In today’s world, we unfortunately cannot be too careful.
In the shower
Okay, be honest, you know you sing in the shower. So why not pray in there, too? I am reminded of the television commercials where the woman locks herself in the bathroom and is doing nothing but escaping from the perils of being a housewife and mother. It becomes her secret escape room. One scene even has the woman kicked back in a bubble bath with a glass of wine. Her husband yells through the door, “Hey, what are you doing in there?” She replies, “Nothing honey.” I may be paraphrasing a bit, but you get the idea. No one is allowed in. It is her private space for the moment. All I am saying is hey, she has half of it down just by claiming it as her secret place.
Could it work for you too?
Make use of it and pray meaningfully. Even if it is just a few minutes it can make a big difference in your overall attitude and personal relationship with God. And just for kicks, if you are feeling adventurous and want to drag your prayer time out a little longer, you could continue praying secretly while you actually take your shower, too. This is an easy and effective way to find time for a little extra prayer each day, so do not underestimate the importance of shower time.
Sitting on your porch
Cracker Barrel has become one of the most popular restaurants in the United States. Take a drive down any interstate and it is only a few exits between locations in most areas. And there is good reason – down-home style cooking, a cozy fireplace, a small retail area, and their famous front porch rocking chairs.
Those rocking chairs have become an icon for their chain. They appear so inviting as you approach the front porch of the restaurant. When you sit down and begin rocking gently back and forth, you suddenly feel the tension ebbing out of your neck and shoulders. You begin to experience peace with the universe (which, by the way, is just another way of saying you being to experience peace with God).
Now, move this scene to your own porch and you see where I am going with this. Secret prayer time made easy. It is a great place to pray the Rosary, too. Do not underestimate how powerful a message it sends your children and grandchildren to see you sitting their praying the Holy Rosary. That image will remain in their hearts and minds for ever.
In your garden
Religious brothers and sisters living in monasteries and abbeys pray most of the day. This includes while they are working. You can follow their lead by praying while you work in your garden (remember, it all started in a garden way back at the beginning of time, right?) or undertake some other type of yard work like mowing the lawn. It is an excellent opportunity to exercise your physical, mental, and spiritual muscles.
Why waste a minute of conversation with God? Take advantage of every opportunity to reach out to Him and remind him how much you love and need him to lead your life. It might just make tiresome work feel less demanding, too. An added bonus for sure.
At the beach
Looking out over the expanse of an ocean as the sounds of its waves crash against the shoreline affords a real since of reverence. This setting takes us back to where we started this list of potential secret prayer locations – in nature. You once again find yourself in the heart of creation, an inseparable function of it.
I have decided the Holy Spirit certainly follows us wherever we go, but he calls the beach His home. The sea looks so gentle, so inviting. But its power is undeniable and not to be underestimated. Similarly, God, in the form of the Holy Spirit in this case, is a gentle god. But His power is not to be put to the test inaptly. Witnessing His power as you stroll along the shoreline reminds you to secretly convey your most seemingly impossible prayer requests to Him, for all things are possible with God. Do not fall into the trap of underestimating Him. He loves you dearly. Keep knocking at His door. Pester Him enough and He will answer. This is His promise to us.
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”Jesus Christ, Luke 11:5-8
So, use your secret prayer time on the beach to ask for those “impossible” miracles you would love to see come to fruition. It shows true growth in your parent and child relationship with your Heavenly Father to show Him this level of trust.
THINK MONEY IS ALL YOU SHOULD TITHE? GUESS AGAIN!
Just as we should joyfully tithe regularly from our income, we should also joyfully tithe regularly from our time. I truly believe God would prefer us to give of our time and talents than with our capital if we could only contribute one or the other.
To put this into perspective, 10 percent of a 24-hour day is approximately 2.5 hours per day. That is a minimum of how much time we should allocate for God each day.
Of course, the entire 2.5 hours does not have to be in silent prayer. It can be any activity that brings Him glory. Attending Mass, reading scripture, serving others, adoration, witnessing to others, reading Christian literature and books, watching Christian films or TV, and of course prayer just to name a few.
YOU WIN! (AND SO DOES GOD)
And there you have it. Use your imagination and creativity to discover new locations to pray to God in secret. A little time here and there adds up. Before you know it, you will be a prayer warrior just like my parents were. That makes my heart smile.
So, now you know the secret to winning when you play Hide (seeking solitude) and Seek (pursuing God through prayer) with God. To summarize, all you have to do is decide to participate by actively seeking Him out prayerfully and regularly in a quiet and secret place of your choosing.
And please, do not be intimidated by your opponent just because he is God. The truth is, when you win, God wins too. And He would not have it any other way. After all, He wrote the rules of the game himself!
So go, play, and win the grand prize – an eternal vacation with your Heavenly Father with an inheritance of riches amassed for you beyond your earthly imagination. Start by taking the time today to sit down and schedule time to purposefully foster your intimate relationship with God through secret prayer with him.
Today’s Supporting Scripture Versus for Additional *Contemplation (NABRE)
*When contemplating scripture, rest your thoughts and simply love, and allow yourself to respond to God’s love. That is, we are allowing the scripture to permeate us in order to grow closer to God.
Note: The New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE) can be found online at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1&version=NABRE
- Matthew 6:1-8: “[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
- Romans 8:26: In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
- Psalms 95:6: Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing.
- Colossians 4:2: Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving …
- Phillipians 4:6: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
- Galatians 2:20: … yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.
- Acts 4:31: As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
- John 14:14: If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.
- James 4:8: Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
Today’s Supporting Links for Additional *Meditation
*When meditating on scriptures, articles, and other forms of media, we are actively engaging in cognition (i.e., we are actively thinking). That is, we are studying the material in order to learn. Please note that these links were all active at the time of this posting
- How to Pray: A Catholic Guide to the Interior Place http://www.beginningcatholic.com/how-to-pray
- Jesus: the Shortest, Simplest, and Most Powerful Prayer in the World
- Finding Quiet Places to Pray
- 6 Benefits of a Silent Retreat with God
- 5 Things that Happen on a Silent Retreat
- Ten Important Tips to Grow in Prayer
- How to Have a Quiet Time
- The Rosary as a Tool for Meditation
- 10 Great Places to Take a Prayer Retreat
Today’s Prayer for Healing
Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. — Saint Augustine
Note: This prayer was retrieved from https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=336