It is said that Jesus would often go out early to a lonely place. For the Scottish saints it was a freezing cold mountainside at night where they would wrap themselves in a woollen cloak, lie down and weep as they prayed for every single one of their flock. For St. Brendan it was an ocean beach where he would stand in the shallow water for hours with his hands lifted to the heavens.
But before you go any further it’s important to understand that these actions were the outcome of a deep and restless love in the hearts of the pray-ers, an awareness of their own frailty, and a desperation to see God’s grace move in human souls. So if you are in that place of deep concern, why not give it a try for at least month? Even get a mate to come with you. Many great men and women of faith have made a personal prayer covenant with a friend. But be sure to keep it a secret between the two of you. Nothing spoils these prayer adventures like ‘talking it up’.
Perhaps you could try out some of the routines others have done or maybe you could invent your own ritual: get down on your knees and fast or go and stand in the ocean—plunge into what may feel like childish-arrogance. And remember that this is no Buddhist/ shamanist attempt to manipulate blind and dumb spirit beings with long winded gibberish, this is you—a human being in the flesh—joining in with the unspeakable groans of the Holy Spirit and the high priestly prayers of your resurrected King Jesus who already intercedes for us daily.
Remember too that not every ‘voice’ you hear quoting bible verses is from God. The devil quoted scripture to Jesus. So be sure to take with you the sober knowledge of prayer disaster stories; the cold steel of good theology and common sense; the watchfulness of a sentry, the humour of a Chesterton and the honest questions of a community of sensible brothers and sisters.36
One last word. The faith that grows out of a strong life of private prayer is invariably unfettered by pessimism and characterised by an irrepressible (but not naïve) attitude of expectancy because—like an experienced musician—it has acquired an ear for the music of the voice of the Good Shepherd and knows the feel and the mood of an approaching crest in a wave, when, if a thing is to be done, you must be ready for the ‘now or never moment’ when power is able to be unleashed through a will that chooses to trust. Then it is finished, and your ‘Yes!’ and ‘Thank you!’ reverberate throughout the realms of the spiritual battle.
Such moments of opportunity often occur while we are in the place of wrestling prayer, but they also float past us in ordinary every day life and and may occur during a cup of tea with a friend in the morning; during a job interview at lunch; while we are laying concrete in the afternoon; or after we go to bed at night. The likelihood of you noticing them will be much higher if you are living out this habit of personal prayer.
36 Incorporating thoughts from the New Testament, George MacDonald, St. Ignatius Loyola & CS Lewis