From my prayer retreat at the monastery, post 1


July 14: "Simple"

I am writing from room 9 of St. Andrews Abbey, a Benedictine monastery on the edge of the Mojave desert near Palmdale, CA. I have come here for a prayer retreat, lasting from Monday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon. I have been under a lot of mental and spiritual fatigue lately, and I felt I needed to get away. I think God is also stirring in my heart, so I am here in response to the calling of the Spirit to come away with him…

I am very happy with the accommodations. The room is Spartan but clean. The walls are cinder block, and the floors are ceramic tile. There are two twin beds, dressed with simple blue spreads. The room is comfortable but modest. It is air conditioned, but that too is modest. I doubt the temperature in here will dip below 80 in the afternoons.

I specifically rejected the idea of taking a prayer retreat at a posh hotel somewhere. I do not want to be pampered. I do not want to be courted by advertisers. I want a place of repentance, a cocoon-like sanctuary where I can turn from the world, including all the wonderful accoutrements of vocational ministry, and embrace my Father.

The most exciting adornment of the room is the full view of the desert landscape, which begins just on the other side of the sliding glass door. The desert dominates the room, leaving one with the sense of being very close to nature. The desert is as awe-inspiring as it is foreboding. There is no such thing as a casual walk through the desert. That is fitting, for my time here is not casual either.

It is very quiet here. No cars, very few people. There is “Grand Silence” on the grounds between 8:30 PM and 8:30 AM. Perfect! I came here to commune with God. This room has no internet connection, no TV, and my cell phone has no reception. Perfect again! I came here to focus.

I spent some time today orienting myself in prayer. Although I hope God speaks to me, I have removed any such demands from my agenda. I am here to offer myself to him. I am not expecting him to offer himself to me. I want to drink in his steadfast love for me, for all human beings, and for all creation. In full appreciation of his mercy, I want to present my body as a living/holy/pleasing sacrifice, for that is my very suitable expression of worship (Rom 12:1). As purely as I can, I want to embrace the Triune God without demanding anything in return.

The attractions and concerns of the world constantly beckon, tempt, and harass. I have been contending against them, but in the ongoing battle, I have found myself becoming a little more forgetful of God than I want to be. That is why I am repenting. Turning Godward… facing… embracing.

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