The Word in the Wings

The Word in the Wings  > Reflecting El Roi: prayer, solitude, and rest

Reflecting El Roi: prayer, solitude, and rest

By: JESSICA NOONAN

Glorify Dance Theatre will premiere a new ballet, Reflecting El Roi, in March 2024 during the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is a forty-day period when Christians prepare to experience Holy Week and Easter and to remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Reflecting El Roi uses dance to explore three traditional intentions of Lent: preparation, prayer & fasting, and giving.

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This month the dancers and I have been studying the meaning and importance of Lent. We have learned that lenten disciplines should include giving up something in your life that is moving you away from God or doing something that will bring you closer to God.  

When examining my own heart, I identified the busyness of being a mother of two in this over-scheduled world as preventing me from engaging in a fully committed prayer life. Prayer is a tool for conversations with our beloved Father. Did you know there are over 650 prayers in the Bible? This reveals that prayer is very important to God. So how do we grow in this area when so much in our daily lives is trying to pull us away from intimate moments with our Father? We must seek intentional times of rest and solitude throughout our day. Let’s first take a look at what the Bible says about rest and solitude, and then we will explore how we can practice this.  

Jesus models solitude for us in the Bible. Matthew 26:36 (NIV) says, 

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

 

And then again in Luke 6:12 (NIV):

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”  

 

Matthew 6:6 (NRSVUE) instructs us to pray in solitude

But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” 

 

There is a clear, powerful connection between solitude and prayer. When we enter into a place of solitude, we remove the distractions of the outside world. We can focus solely on the Lord.

Now let’s take a look at what the Bible says about “rest:” 

 

Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations; I am exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10 (NRSVUE)

 

He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 

Mark 6:31 (NRSVUE)

 

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.

Psalm 37:7 (NRSVUE)

 

Melody Mendoza, GPA’s Artistic & Executive Director, reflects on how rest lets her step away from distractions and center her focus on God. She says,

 

“There are two times when I feel the most connected to God. One is when I’m choreographing, and the other is when I’m resting. When I rest it helps my brain know it’s specifically taking time to connect to God and while there are always distracting thoughts, I’m able to let those go and refocus on the Lord. So instead of God being part of whatever I’m doing, I feel like intentional times of rest and silence let me attune my heart and mind to God and what He is doing.”

 

When Melody chooses rest, God is faithful to show Himself clearly through the distractions. Even in the Old Testament, God provides rest to his loyal servants. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah was forced into rest and solitude. As a prophet he had just performed several miracles and was fleeing from Queen Jezebel. He was physically and spiritually hungry. God provided a solitary broom tree for him to rest and food to eat in order for him to continue God’s work.

 

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 

1 Kings 19:8 (NLT)

 

Notice: God gave Elijah strength for forty days and forty nights! There are no coincidences in God’s word! If he can give Elijah the strength for 40 days, He can give us the strength for 40 days to complete a lenten discipline! Now let’s discuss how we can find solitude and rest with God.

The first step to finding these quiet, intimate moments with God is determining the resisting factor in your life. Most of us realize the importance of quiet alone time with the Lord, but then doubt and resistance enter in before we get the chance to experience it. Ruth Haley Barton, the author of Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence calls this “the push pull phenomenon,” and she says, “It seems no matter how well I understand the necessity of solitude, no matter how much I feel drawn to it, no matter how well I plan for it, there are forces working against it both externally and internally” (Barton, 2004, p. 44). For me personally, it seems to stem from fear–fear that I won’t be able to accomplish everything I need to get done if I take this extra time to find solitude with the Lord; fear that He won’t hear me and I won’t hear him, so I just wasted fifteen minutes where I could have been grocery shopping or folding laundry. It sounds so horrible, but these are the honest thoughts that are holding me back from precious time with my Lord. 

Ok, so now I know my obstacles…Now what?? Barton explains that we need to fully trust our Lord. Trust that He will provide time later for me to go to the grocery store. Trust Him that my children WILL have clothes to wear tomorrow even if I don’t get the laundry done. And trust Him that He will show up to this intimate moment of solitude with me. But in order to do that, we need to let go. That concept is so hard in this goal-driven, high-achieving, and busy world. Let me put it this way: we know that in order to function as a healthy human, we need to feed our body food, specifically healthy food. Healthy food helps us to grow and maintain a healthy body.  In the same way, Christians need to be spending intentional time with our Lord to grow closer to him and to strengthen our faith. To help you get started, try reciting these words from Barton’s book: 

 

“Here I am. With my whole heart, soul, mind and body. I am here, ready and willing to move more deeply into relationship with you. I make myself available to you, and I will wait for you. There is nothing I can do to control the outcomes. There is nothing I can do to force your response or make your response what I want it to be.  All I can do is put myself out there and wait” (Barton, 2004, p. 49). 

 

Company artist Julia Dutill says that she had her own obstacles to overcome to find the ways she connects with God most meaningfully:

 

“As a writer who grew up in a family of writers, I’m just now learning that it is in fact possible to draw near to God and process my emotions without using words, and one of those ways is dance. Often the Lord will use the times that I dance by myself to talk to me and to remind me of His truths. As for silence, I have for many years now enjoyed the practice of just sitting still and allowing myself to feel His presence. It has gotten harder as I’ve gotten older to find a relaxed, unhurried time to do so, but when the circumstances are right, the outcome is beautiful.”

 

So this Lent, I encourage us and challenge us to dive into solitude and rest with the Lord. Whatever resistances get in your way when seeking solitude with God, I pray the Lord meets you right where you are. I pray that these moments are beautiful and powerful so that you would continue to seek out these important times of solitude. 

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Secondary reference: Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence, by Ruth Haley Barton (InterVarsity Press, 2004)

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Glorify Dance Theatre Presents

May 3-4

This is a family-friendly ballet that kids of ALL ages will enjoy!