“I pray that You, oh Lord, will quiet my heart.” (I wonder how the World Cup USA team is doing in its game against Germany.) “Grant me Your mercy as I continue to serve You and obey You all the days of my life.” (Did I lock the doors of the house before leaving? I am sure I left enough food and water for our dog, Emmy, before heading out of the city.)
I find it hard to stay focused whenever I say my prayers. I find myself thinking of mundane things that clutter my thoughts and distract my heart from communing with my God. I have come to this Personal Prayer Retreat to de-clutter and sharpen my focus during times of prayer and meditation. I started this four-day Retreat by reading Richard J. Foster’s Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer. Foster mentions that most people use icons or music to help them stay focused during their time of prayer and meditation. For me, what usually works is a close encounter with nature. I take long walks in the woods, spend an afternoon on long hikes on a mountain trail, or sit beside a beach by myself and watch the ocean come and go with its rising and falling tide. Nothing brings me closer to God Almighty better than a visceral experience with His creation. In Foster’s book, he calls these prayer activities as “Beholding the Lord” or in the language of other Christian mystics and prayer practitioners, these are times of Recollection or Practicing the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Whatever terms we use and however we describe these they help us stay focus in our prayers to our God.
I decide on Sun Moon Lake as the place for this four-day Retreat. I stay at a friend’s house inside Chi Nan National University, and take daily half-hour bus rides to Sun Moon Lake. I explore different nature trails around the lake, visit some mountain pagodas and temples, or sit on a bench overlooking the lake and watch the boats come and go. At random locations I open my Bible and read Psalms 63 to Psalms 69. I read God’s Word out loud and pray with the Scriptures. I soak in the beauty of God’s creation and ponder the reading of the Psalms.
"So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your steadfast power and glory" (Psalms 63:2). (How I wished I was inside a church cathedral gazing at beautiful stained glass icons of Jesus or at majestic steeples and captivating architectures.) As I was reading this chapter of the Bible in front of a Buddhist temple, it suddenly dawned on me that God is the Lord of the universe and God of all the earth. This mountain, this lake and all that is around it is God's sanctuary. I paused before the God of all creation, and quieted my heart. Even inside this Buddhist temple, God's glory is present because He is Lord of all. Every part of this earth is God's sanctuary. Glory to His name!
"I cried to Him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue" (Psalms 66:17). I was reading this verse on top of Ci En Pagoda, a 46-meter high pagoda located on a mountain overlooking the Sun Moon Lake. I yelled at the top of my voice, praising God and emoting with all my being all the adoration our God deserves. "Come and see what God has done" (Psalms 66:5). I wanted all my friends in Taiwan to hear me. I wanted all the people of Taiwan, even those foreigners who are living in this island, to see me praise God and glorify Him because He is God Almighty and worthy of all honor.
I need to quiet down. I need to realize that there is only that much I can share from my personal prayer retreat. My 4-day time in Sun Moon Lake is my time with God, with Him alone. I must remind myself that blogging about this experience will never capture the most intimate and intense communion I had with the God of this universe. Holy is His name!