“You don’t have to pray out loud; He’s nearer than you can imagine.
It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our heart a chapel where we can go anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them.”
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Fourth letter.
I love to be able to go away on a retreat, perhaps to join with a Christian community for a short time, or to go away alone to a place of beauty and solitude. In places like this it can be easier to engage in a rhythm of prayer, and to be still enough to hear the gentle whisper of God’s spirit without the cacophony of distracting sounds that normally fill my mind.
Pilgrimage is also a powerful source of a deepening and growing relationship with God. A visit to a location associated with living faith in Jesus and years of the prayers of his followers is often a real source of inspiration, and an opportunity to re-focus our lives on the one thing that really matters.
But I cannot spend my whole life on retreat or on a specific pilgrimage to a ‘holy place’…this is not my calling. I have been called to live the everyday life of family, work and friendship.
For over a year, Maggie (not her real name) has been part of a group experiencing DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) together, as part of her treatment for a long-term mental illness. The course has been very successful in giving her many tools which enable her to manage intense emotions and mood swings
We were talking about the “Safety Plan” that she has been encouraged to prepare for the bad times when she need help and encouragement. Being a creative person, Maggie has designed and produced a pack of cards, which can be used to aid memory and make the helpful ideas more accessible.
I immediately thought of the quote from Brother Lawrence. One of the things he is most remembered for was his ability to remain in the presence of God whatever activity, no matter how ordinary, he was engaged in and wherever he was, from worship in the chapel to washing the pots in the monastery kitchen.
Maggie, like Brother Lawrence before her, had discovered that within each of us is a still, sacred space where we can withdraw to spend time with God, regardless of our external circumstances. And in meeting with God, we are restored to the person we were always intended to be.