For four years I was an Assemblies of God minister and a monk with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at the Little Portion Hermitage. This is an excerpt from my book Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes: Removing Religion to Find Relationship.
Every Friday evening, the community gathered in the chapel at the Little Portion for a half hour of silent prayer and meditation. At the appointed time, we would enter the candle-lit chapel, find a place to sit, and silently talk with God. Occasionally, you would hear the sound of slow, heavy breathing in the chapel – that unmistakable indication that one of the saints is taking a short siesta. But for the most part, everyone was engaged in some type of silent prayer.
It was during these times—when I desired nothing more than to bask in the presence of God and simply be with the One who loved me to death—that unsavory images from my past or arguments I’ve had with people would come screaming into my head. Here I am trying to meditate upon God, and an image of girl I once dated (and shouldn’t have) explodes upon my imagination. Now, instead of hoping to catch a glimpse of God’s glory, I have Victoria’s Secret dancing in my head. What’s a monk to do?
The Battle of Prayer
Oswald Chambers said, “The battle of prayer is against two things in the earthlies: wandering thoughts and lack of intimacy with God’s character as revealed in His word. Neither can be cured at once, but they can be cured by discipline.” Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was my previous study of martial arts that helped me overcome my wandering thoughts while in prayer.