Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > Living in Prayer


Solitude & Prayer & Prayerfulness

Mar 14, 2023

The In-Between Time

Androscoggin River

Brunswick/Topsham, Maine

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Recently, I left Maine and returned to another state down south, with much more traffic and more populated than where I now live. I noticed the contrast in air quality, something I was not aware of when I lived there. I knew the scent was of pollution - in sharp contrast to where I had moved to five years prior. Prayer is this way. Prayer becomes prayerfulness - the environment we come to live in. Through living more in this atmosphere, we become more and more prayer. At first, we may notice this shift, like living in a new habitat, but, later, we have forgotten what it was like to live otherwise. Prayerfulness has become our natural, unselfconscious habitat. Others who are receptive to this can sense this fresh quality of unidentifiable but subtlety felt presence. Others, not aware of this, are still blessed by it, even as the Sun benefits those who live as though the Sun is not above them and showering them with the blessings of light.

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Pray always (without ceasing).

*I Thessalonians 5.17

Solitude as spiritual practice is entering times and places apart from the content of what one calls "my life." Solitude and silence is empty of stuff and, thereby, fullness itself. Solitude is a deepening intimacy with Presence precisely due to a chosen absence. Free of belongings, she enjoys a loving union to and with whom she belongs. She has discovered true, freeing belonging.

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The desert within, that empty openness teeming with vibrant life, is the Inner Sanctum where all is hidden in Quiet and Intimacy. Much beauty grows and blooms there, giving fragrance to all through a simple and silent presence. When we reenter the world outside, we can see the world more clearly, kindly, and compassionately, even as we can take a love for the world into the solitude where we nourish our intimacy with the Unseen, to Home, our True Self.

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I began attending a little Episcopal church for worship. The priest, Ron, and I became friends. He gave me a key to the sanctuary for solitude, meditation, and devotional practice outside class time - I was a Professor of Religion at a nearby college.

I would spend hours in the sanctuary and outside each morning. The daily ritual included a big mug of coffee, procured each time from the same store on the way to drink during spiritual readings.

One memory that oft comes to me was lying under the altar once when the organist entered and practiced the upcoming Sunday music. He had no idea I was there. If I came out, it might shock him. I relaxed and continued in prayerful quiet.

I had decided hiding under the altar would be an excellent place to meditate - it would assure me privacy. Such was a zealous, likely to some odd or fanatical, early exploration into solitude. Anyway, it worked ~ I remained hidden.

Later, I was vowed to solitude. I do not hide under altars anymore. But choosing times and places for quietness and aloneness remains central to my daily life and devotion.

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When persons practice solitude over time, it becomes a continuous experience even amid others. That does not happen for one who does not begin with an intentional setting aside of regular time to practice being alone to grow in communion with Life.

As Hindus have said well, this practice is being alone with the Alone, which we find paradoxically to nurture intimacy with everyone, everything, and a nonsentimental love for all life forms. In such aloneness, one discovers we are together even when apart.

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The early Christian teaching, "Pray always," can mean several things. First, we can pray prayers all the time. This is impossible, and praying prayers is still in the domain of content (i.e., thought, words, images). The teaching could be we are to pray often, not allowing long intervals between praying. "Pray always" can be interpreted as to live with a prayerful attitude-spirit. I read the teaching as indicating praying and prayerfulness. We can live prayerfully by becoming prayerful. We pray so to become prayerful. In the beginning, we pray; in time, we are prayer. We may still offer prayers, but the prayers arise from the prayerfulness and help sustain it. Here, we cannot differentiate among solitude and prayer or prayefulness - to say one is to say the three.

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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2023.

*Use of photography is allowed accompanied by credit given to Brian K. Wilcox and title and place of photograph.

*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse.


Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > Living in Prayer

©Brian Wilcox 2024