One night back in my college days, I remember seeing my good friend Gus walking down the middle of our dorm hallway, all bundled up in a thick, winter coat with a Bible tucked under his arm.
As he walked, his eyes remained fixed on the door that led outside. Out he went.
Since it was rather cold that night, I asked another friend standing there, "Where's Gus going?"
He replied, "Oh, he's going outside to spend time with the Lord."
"Really?" I thought to myself. "Outside? All bundled up? All Alone? Hmmm ... "
The more I thought about that snapshot of devotional focus, the more I found myself compelled, practically propelled, to engage in a similar getaway plan. After all, to get away from the dorm, the guys, the noise, my studies -- that seemed good.
So that night I, too, would go outside and "spend time with the Lord!"
With purpose, I put on my Navy pea coat, buttoned up the collar all the way, and headed outside to a place where I knew I could be alone -- to a secluded spot down by the school chapel. And I'll tell you what, I was feeling pretty "spiritual" as I walked. I mean, I just knew I was going to be outside for at least a half-hour, enjoying intimate and intense prayer with my God.
When I arrived, however, something else happened. As I looked up in the sky (and the stars looked back), I opened my mouth to begin my long, heartfelt prayer. But it went only like this -- "........." In other words, silence. It was as though I was trying to strike up a conversation with someone I really didn't know that well. I struggled for words. And this sensation of silence bothered me greatly.
And so looking up at the sky again, yet now in humility and with a new recognition, I prayed simply this: "Lord, give me the desire to pray." And that was pretty much it; that was the essence of my "long prayer" that chilly evening.
But you know what? Over time, God honored that simple prayer. More and more, he gave me the desire to talk with him freely, expressing my joys, my sorrows, my needs, my requests for others. Times in prayer grew longer and required less effort -- as though we were in a relationship. Because, in fact, we were.
Now I'd like to tell you that ever since that night, prayer has only gotten easier. But that would notbe the truth. Taking time to get away in prayer remains difficult for me.
Still, the Lord remains faithful. He continues to provide occasions for gratitude, and grants strength to my weakness. He propels me. He points me to Jesus. Indeed, as revealed in the Gospels: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed" (Mark 1:35 NIV).
May prayers come in the morning, even from this pilgrim.
* The Rev. Dr. Craig Davis is Minister of the Word at Grace United Reformed Church in Kennewick.
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