“But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.” (Matt. 6:6)
In our age, solitude is not an easy treasure to find. Most of us cannot live in a manner like the most venerable Fr. Lazarus El Anthony (whose life, by the way, is not one of escape but of praying for the world)- we have jobs to go to, children to raise, responsibilities to take care of. So where do we find time to pray? Where do we find time to converse, alone with the Alone?
The Scriptures tell us to go into our rooms and close our doors – a healthy dose of common sense. Set aside a half an hour as time for you and God. And there, in that room, set up a little place where you and God can converse: a prayer corner, home shrine, or whatever else you wish to call it.
I am blessed most abundantly by God to have a little room for a study – this is where I write, read, and the like. But this is where I also like to pray, when I am not walking through the woods or even taking my puppy out for a run (yes, one can pray even with a healthy pup bouncing about around their legs!).
Setting up your own prayer corner is a work of love in many respects. Decorate it with whatever is conducive to prayer – a crucifix is essential, but beyond that it really is up to you. As someone who loves Eastern Christian spirituality very much, I like to hang up icons there – little windows to heaven, if you will. My wife bought me a nice cushion to kneel on too, instead of the old Christmas-time cushion I had been using, with a note that read “Thou shalt not kneel on the Christmas cushion” attached.
What the prayer corner really amounts to is that it is a place where you and God can be truly alone for a little while. It is something that should be conducive to increasing devotion and piety, to setting your heart on fire for Christ.
All of this talk of solitude and being alone with God of course should come with some cautions however – as I have learned the hard way, prayer in solitude should not be sought as an escape from others. The great hermits and monks and nuns who pray for us daily in silence and solitude are there for us and our souls, not to simply get away from the noise of the modern world.
As Montaigne writes, “we have to withdraw from such attributes of the mob as are within us.”1 In other words, one cannot be at peace with God via mere location, but must seek for this peace in their heart. One can be just as tormented and irritated by things when alone in the desert as when they are in the middle of rush-hour traffic, if not more so. We can see the truth in the words (and I always try to remind myself of this), “Unless thou shalt first amend thy life going to and fro amongst others, thou shalt not avail to amend it dwelling alone.”2
With that in mind, if you don’t have a private place to pray in the home, then, if you can, go about setting one up today. It is truly a privilege to have one, and it doesn’t have to be extravagant or spacious – just a tiny corner in which to spend some time with the One Who gave Himself for us. A blessing indeed.
1 – “On Solitude”
2 – Verba Seniorum, X:33