“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Corrie ten Boom, author, Dutch resistance, WWII
My roommate of long ago recently became a nun. Not the kind of nun who wears pantsuits and works in a hospital. She is more like the sisters from Sound of Music. Full habit. Cloistered away from most outside contact except for an annual Christmas newsletter going out and a few deliveries of snail mail coming in.
She’d been debating the move for more than a decade. I’d heavily advised against it at first, remembering she of the European boyfriend. By the time she entered the convent, I supported her decision, remembering she of the scripture-memorization flash cards.
“But, why cloistered?” I asked. “Why do you have to shut yourself entirely away? Even from your brothers and sisters?”
She answered without hesitation. “For prayer.” And, I instantly got it. I may not share her exact beliefs and I would not be happy in such solitude (at least not most of the time), but I can understand the overwhelming need this world has for prayer. Real, heart-felt prayer. The kind of prayer that touches heaven and causes God (and us) to move in ways that are nothing short of amazing.
This is the kind of prayer that is in line with what the Bible consistently states about the spiritual duty of humankind. King Solomon knew it. “Fear God, and keep his commandments,” he concluded in Ecclesiastes 12:13. The Apostle John knew it. Love God, love people and keep God’s commandments, he urged believers throughout his writings, particularly in 1 John.
Jesus certainly knew it. When challenged by an expert in religious law as to what true spirituality looks like, He who lived it out unto death and resurrection could instantly reply. Love God with everything you’ve got, love other people the way you love yourself and all the other rules will fall into place. (Matthew 22:35-40)
Sis. Helen is trying to live that out in a cloister. Some are trying to do this at a public event on this National Day of Prayer. Still others are trying to do that in the solitude of hearts found in homes, hospital rooms, military encampments, police cruisers, teachers’ lounges, submarines, leafy-green mountaintops.
Yes, let’s pray. And, wherever prayer is being made, let us also follow up our words today and all our tomorrows. Love God. Keep His commandments. Love others. Love with working clothes on. This is the whole duty of the believer.