Life Notes: Finding Calm | faith and values
If you’ve hung around church long enough, you’ve probably heard of “the quiet place,” “the prayer room,” “devotional time,” and so on. From a pragmatic point of view, this means setting aside time to practice your spiritual disciplines such as prayer, scripture reading, meditation, etc. But if you’re a practicing Christian, you know it’s much deeper than that. It is not just an external discipline but an internal place where we go. It is a place we access and connect with the presence of God.
There are similar practices around the world and in other religions that practice this stuff, but they are all rooted in something different. Christian practice is rooted in the understanding that the temple of God is now our body and His presence, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and our denomination committed to it, now dwells within us.
This place is accessible to all Christians but not everyone goes there. To be fair, many Christians fall into the “religion” of it all and settle for weekly Bible plans on an app or a daily 5 minute prayer on the way to work. I am not making fun of these things because they have their place but I would like to submit to you that there is more.
This quiet place practice is seen throughout the Bible, but the most impactful, in my opinion, is when Jesus practices it. In the New Testament gospels we read that Jesus goes to a secluded place where he connects with the Father. I’m sure he had scriptures he read and prayers he said, but it seemed deeper than that. We see Him connecting with God.
Jesus repeatedly said that he only does and says what the Father tells him to do and say. This means that God was giving Jesus real-time direction and commands – not just encouraging thoughts and a stamp of approval because of his prayerful discipline.
In Matthew 6, the disciples, the people who followed Jesus, finally asked him, “Lord, do you want to teach us how to pray?” Why did they ask Him that? The guys that followed Him were good little Jewish boys and men that knew all the same prayers that Jesus knew. Is it possible that there was something different when Jesus prayed? It didn’t feel religious but genuine. These were not memorized, repeated prayers. They were filled with power because of the relationship he had with God.
So Jesus begins to teach them. He begins by giving them an example. This is how you should pray. “Our Father who art in heaven”… Did you know that this was not a common practice before Jesus? You often heard him called “Lord”, “God” or “Yahweh”, but “Father” was not common. Jesus was letting His disciples know that this was not just a prescription on how to say a good prayer. He was showing them that prayer was meant to be an intimate time with your Father.
Just before this prayer, He tells them not to pray like the pagans or the Pharisees. The pagans repeated the same prayers or chants without thinking – much like the current practice of manifesting thoughts or incantations. This practice is often rooted in the same ideology as birthday wishes, in a selfish desire, not the hope of connecting with the entity you are praying to.
Also, the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders at the time, prayed in front of everyone to look holy. They knew how to play religious/ecclesiastical games and seemed to know God. The truth was that they were dead inside. At one point, Jesus calls them “whitewashed tombs.” They looked good on the outside but there was only death inside.
I hope you will practice visiting the quiet place, the prayer room or the invisible place in the right way. That you know how to interiorly access the presence of God and hear about Him. May your Christian practice be real and fruitful, not just a moral obligation.
Chad Fagundes is pastor of men and outreach at Koinonia Church in Hanford, California. He can be reached at [email protected] or 559-582-1528.