by Gene Tempelmeyer
Spring Garden Church, North York
At times I wish I had a wilderness hut, a backwoods cabin, where I could get away from my people…
This is the first known preacher praying for some time away.
I am fortunate to serve a church with a generous Sabbatical policy. It took a number of years to persuade myself to actually take four months of Sabbath from ministry. I worried what momentum my absence would cost the church. The self-absorption of this concern completely escaped me.
The church can afford a pastor who is not always busy. But the church can’t afford a pastor who is not collected and centred in God’s Presence.
I have discovered I need to regularly visit three rooms of prayer. In the first room we talk to God. We tell Him our needs, fears and concerns. We give Him praise and thanksgiving. It took me longer to discover how to inhabit the second room of prayer in which we simply listen to God. We learn to sense God’s voice as we pay attention to the thoughts that come to our attentive minds when we have asked the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts.
Learning to enter the third room required more years of relationship with God than it probably should have. In the third room we neither speak nor listen, but are simply with God. The center of our being is absorbed in His Being. I discovered this third room some years ago when a sabbatical gave me the opportunity to spend a week fasting, silence and solitude in a Poustinia: a small “backwoods cabin” with nothing but a very hard bed, a chair, a table, a Bible, one loaf of bread, and a kettle for making tea.
I have discovered since that in the middle of a busy day when my mind is overwhelmed and my calendar harried my office easily doubles as a Poustinia. All it takes is the self-discipline to close the door, sit in a chair, notice my breathing, and centre myself in God for several minutes. Center the mind on God, let the mind enter the heart, and peace is but a moment away.