Today’s Gospel begins with two interesting lines from Luke 9:18.
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
So Jesus was praying alone even though he was in the presence of his disciples.
One wonders what the disciples were up to at this point. Just sitting there thoughtlessly? Bantering back and forth while the Lord was praying? As I think of it, it seems to me that the discourse that follows (“Who do you say that I am?” and the answers) suggests that we might never know who God really is unless we pray.
But, the fact that Jesus is praying in solitude here also suggests that praying in solitude is a good undertaking.
Yesterday was the feast of St. Romuald, who was very much into the practice of praying in solitude.
This is from St. Romuald’s brief rule for Camaldolese monks, whose order he founded:
Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.
The book I’m reading now–Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy–says that the irony of praying in solitude is that it actually brings one into greater union with others.
So perhaps Jesus’ disciples in today’s Gospel were praying in solitude also…together. Either way we interpret it, there is a lesson to learn.