Location, location, location!

By Mark Poniatowski

House by trees

When thinking about consistent devotional prayer, location can be very important. I guess you might think that if the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, why should location matter at all? In a sense it shouldn’t: God can be at your desk whilst you pray in the library just as he can be present in your room just before you go to bed. However, I know that I’m a human, and in the hubbub of this world I need consistent time and space in order to focus in prayer, and I want to give you two top tips as to what we can to make sure our devotional locations are on point:

1. Reduce Distractions – Matthew 6:6

In Matthew 6, Jesus commands us to lock up our doors and pray in secret. Of course his primary reasoning here is to contrast the hypocritical prayers of the Pharisees, trying to appear holy by praying out loud in public places. In our cultural context, that temptation is seemingly reduced, however the importance of praying in secret remains. Praying behind closed doors means to pray without the constant distractions of a world rushing by. Instead of throwing out words to God in a chaotic jumble, by finding a secret location we can trust that our mouth, eyes and ears will be fixed on Him. In our context that can look like being behind closed screens as well, so unless it’s necessary, why not try logging off Facebook and switching off your phone whilst entering the place of devotional prayer?

Devotions are about good time in the secret place with our Father, not impressing others, or being impressed by the weight of the world passing by. That’s not to say that prayer walking in public places is off the agenda. Indeed, it has incredible benefits! However, the primary location for the daily devotional prayer should be in a quiet, private place.

2. Make an active decision to move into a place of prayer – Luke 5:16, 6:12

Having considered the above, the dynamic of movement is also really important in mentally preparing yourself to enter into a different place: the place of devotional prayer. Think about it this way: you could certainly entertain friends in your room, but that would likely be in an off-hand relaxed way. Similarly, you could sit next to a friend in the library, or go shopping with them and share good time, without it being of particularly high quality. However, if you were to take your friend out for a coffee or lunch together, a higher tier of quality time is usually signalled. By actively making the decision to find a place where quality time can be spent together, the quality of time itself is improved. Jesus does the same thing when looking for quality time with his father. In Luke’s Gospel we see him retreating from crowds or heading up a mountain to pray. The very movement away from day-to-day life signals that he is looking for quality time with his father in a way that is different from the constant prayers offered to the Holy Spirit in daily life.

So it turns out Kirsty and Phil got it right all along. Having a consistent location which satisfies the above can be very important to achieve a good devotional prayer life. Of course we are all different, and for some these factors will be more important than for others. However, if we can find somewhere that is quiet and without distractions and where we need to make an active decision to go, we are well on the way to finding a good devotional prayer location. Some ideas might be in your college chapel, a music room or in the University chaplaincy. Most churches will normally have quiet spaces to pray in during the day. Some find praying whilst walking in a quiet place like a field or a quiet park can be useful, but others may find this distracting and weather can also be temperamental. I’ve even found it possible to ask to borrow friends’ rooms to pray in, and have found considerably beneficial devotional time in these spaces. Most important is to find a place that suits you. So next time you pray, why not try actively thinking about where you pray? You’d be surprised at the benefits that location, location and location can bring!

Mark Poniatowski