Spending Time Alone with God

In slums and soup kitchens around the world I heard from those who serve the poor that the most important part of their day was morning prayer. Over and over again. I saw how they jealously guarded their early morning time of stillness and silence. They were very protective of this sliver of time and space which they needed to nurture themselves. In fact, I often heard how working among the poor takes people deeper into prayer and increases their experience of God. People differ widely on how they use their morning time of prayer. The main point is to spend time alone with God.

To work full time among the poor is be always surrounded by people who need something. At the Santa Chiara Children’s Center in Haiti, kids or parents are always tugging at me for something. When I step out of the door of my little apartment, I know I am going to be approached by someone needing something or that some problem needs to be resolved. From my own limited experience at SCCC, as well as what I’ve learned from others around the world, I know I could not survive without my early morning prayer time. It is during that quiet time of conversation with God I can express my desert of doubts, my mountain of fears, and my flood of frustrations.

In my book Thoughts of a Blind Beggar, I described a moment of profound grace in an empty church in Rome in 1995 which forever changed my life, a fleeting moment when God broke through the silence and allowed me to float on a sea of immense love. Nothing like that moment has ever happened again, and for the most part I walk alone along a path of dry parched, waterless land where I have stumbled frequently nourished only by an occasional cup of cool water from a few special people working among the poor whose fractured humanity does not hinder their fidelity to God.

In his book Hidden Holiness, Michael Plekon, an Orthodox priest, writes: “Feeling close to God, even believing to hear his voice with a mission, does not spare one from the loss of such strong communion. It does not immunize a person to doubt, discouragement, perhaps even failure.” After her death, Mother Teresa’s private journals showed us that it is possible to love, even without any hint of inner confidence and consolation.


1 Response to “Spending Time Alone with God”

  1. 1 krebsjoan February 7, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Gerry, it’s funny that no one has replied to this. Or perhaps not. Maybe it’s that, like me, you challenged these activists to take a look or two into what makes us tick. The Jebbies would call it “examen.” Whatever. You’re absolutely right that “special people [activists] whose fractured humanity doesn’t hinder their relationship with God” are those who “nurture” the rest of us Poor. The reason I am tardy in replying is that your reflections pulled up a couple of very treasured and nourishing thoughts of Dan Berrigan, a man I’ve never met except through the outpourings of his heart. I wanted to share his exact words but could only find one of the special two. The one I found concludes his poetic contribution titled “Equilibrium” in a Festschrift to honor Joan Chittister. It has grown on me over the years; I never can read it w/o being moved to the core. Among other things it stresses the value of rest, “spending time alone with God.” Here is the segment: “Regard not only // the arrow, but the gradual // spent force of the string // let go. // How graceful // the bow at rest // but // O, under pressure, like // the bold breath // of Creator Spirit, Twang! // And torn // from thin air, a song of songs!” I was positive I’d find the other Berrigan exact quote in UNCOMMON PRAYER but couldn’t. I checked about four other DB books unsuccessfully also. The gist is this: he confided the importance he put on prayer by saying that for each half-hour of activism in which he engaged he gave an hour in prayer. I’m sure it wasn’t that measured; this is a poet we’re talking about after all. But I am sure he meant to convey that serious prayer is the source of his juices no matter how difficult things get. He also has a lot to say about Hope… Thanks for your challenging piece.

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