I’ve recently been reading a biography of Saint Aidan, the founder of the Holy Island monastery and the man who brought Christianity back to Northumbria in the seventh century. There were many impressive things about this celtic missionary to the pagan Angles, but what struck me most was his commitment to prayer.
He regularly spent hours in prayer, often alone on a small island. He prayed as he travelled, and of course, as a monk, kept regular times of prayer throughout the day – and the night. When he was first given the island of Lindisfarne to build the monastery, faced with the task of starting a farm to become self-sufficient in food, building a church, setting up a school and building shelter for the brothers from the bleak north sea weather, Aidan and his team spent 40 days in prayer instead. They wanted to build on firm foundations.
I wonder if you are so committed to seeking God’s will for your endeavours. I certainly am not. When I set up Syzygy six years ago, of course I prayed, often, but not for 40 days. I doubt that you did when you set out on your ministry. We’re all too busy. Yet Aidan realised that he had so much to do, he couldn’t afford not to pray. Like John Wesley, who apparently spent three hours a day praying, and justified it by saying that he was so busy he couldn’t possibly pray less. Like Jesus, who regularly withdrew to a lonely place to spend time with his father. Time he could have spent teaching, or healing the sick. He obviously thought it was important.
Perhaps our independent spirits lead us to be Marthas rather than Marys. Of course, if it were left to Mary Jesus would never have got his dinner, but somehow I don’t think he’d have minded that much. Are we so busy doing stuff for him that we don’t have time to sit and be with him? Maybe that’s why so many of us are stressed and burnt-out.
I have decided to engage more in prayer, particularly in the workplace. I pray at my desk before I start work, and continue in prayer at regular intervals throughout the day. Well, when I’m not too busy.