How Do You Pick the Lock into the Escape of Prayer?

 “We draw near to God by no corporeal steps since he is everywhere.”

~ St. Thomas Aquainus


Have you ever wondered what it'd be like to live the life of a hermit? Of, say, living in one of St. Brendan's monasteries back in 5th century Ireland, and spending all day, every day gazing out at the ocean and contemplating God and his universe? 

My cousin has. When he's particularly snowed under with commitments to his children, his wife and his career, he pines for weeks upon weeks of solitude and silence.

I decided to splash cold water on his fantasy by reminding him he wouldn't last one week sleeping on a stone floor, eating nothing but a few eggs and a handful of berries each day, and bathing in ice cold water during the winter months.

With a deflated look on his face, he conceded.

But what is the allure of that lifestyle, really? Because many of us have it from time to time. Its peace and simplicity and devotion seems to completely elude us amidst the secularity and noise and complications of modern life.

Must it, though? Is there a passageway from a world of busyness into a world of peace, of connection and of “being” with God?

Five simple ingredients: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and orange rind.  
Many of these are sold in bulk at the grocery store.  

An Autumn Bonfire

My friend's been discussing an autumn bonfire for several weeks now, flipping between weekends as she forecasts upcoming commitments and activities. When a friend announced he was leaving town in a week, it came together right away.

She mowed the lawn, and encircled chairs around the backyard fire pit. She purchased pumpkins, set up her sound system, and strung large, white light bulbs between tree branches. I provided cider mulled in ginger, cloves, and orange rinds. Another guest made chili using three different meats, served over rice with trimmings of cilantro, sour cream and cheese. She provided marshmallows and dark chocolate.

It was an evening of conversation, connection, warmth and camaraderie. In the milieu of the crackling logs, the heat of the flaming fire, the comforting food and the music, we shared our stories and perspectives. The conversation drifted from who built the pyramids, really, to why they faked the moon landing, to what alternative currency is better, crypto or precious metals, to how 5G technology can track us using the graphene oxide in the vaccines.

It was a good time. A great time, now that I reflect on it.

A Recipe

The following day I discovered a tasty alternative to cider: mulling the same ingredients in hot water. The result reminds me of Market Spice Tea from Pike Place in Seattle.

If it seeps for some time, the concoction becomes so flavorful it tastes sweet—yet no sugar’s been added.

Ingredients for one cup:

  • Orange peel (a small piece)

  • 2-3 cloves

  • 2-3 allspice berries

  • 1 slice of fresh ginger

  • 1/4-1/2 of a cinnamon stick

Add the ingredients to a cup of boiling water and allow it to simmer for a few minutes.


  • Add a teaspoon of brown or white sugar.

  • Add a scant amount of vanilla or almond extract.

  • Mull the same spices with cider on the stovetop, set to low, for 20-30 minutes.

It’s a super simple drink to make, and since it’s caffeine free, it’s suitable for any time of day.

A Secret Doorway

I've been mulling on this idea of escape these days.

Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is in our midst (Luke 17:21). It appears, then, that this passageway into the world of prayer isn't so remote and inaccessible as a monastery on an island off the Western Coast of Ireland. If this escape is right here, then, prayer isn't a matter of “getting there,” but one of perceiving what is always right in front of us.

So why can't I much of the time? Living amidst piles of dirty laundry, looking at a desk full of clutter and to-dos, and responding non-stop to messages on five or six apps on my phone, I don't feel like I'm experiencing the kingdom at all.

It seems, somehow, that picking this lock requires the right tools. It requires some preparing, some setting the scene, some gathering and compiling various elements, in order to create an atmosphere that fosters conversation, connection, warmth and camaraderie—with God.

When Jesus prayed, he went off by himself into the desert, climbed a mountain, or awoke before the sunrise to converse with God in darkness.1

Why did he seek out special places? He certainly knew that God is everywhere, so why didn’t he just stay at home and pray? 

It’s as though Jesus needed to be properly disposed to receive what was already right in front of him. Maybe these settings cultivate the detachment necessary to commune with an invisible God, who is ever present, but who exists outside of our understanding and senses.

And what did they talk about, I wonder? Certainly they both have the answer to who built the pyramids. And the answers to many, many more conundrums besides. 

As it turns out, this drink gets me into a spiritual state of mind.  
The spiciness of cloves, ginger and allspice pairs nicely with the sweetness of the rosary!

What insights do you bring to this topic? Do you have any ingredients for creating an atmosphere conducive to prayer?


1. Mark 1:35, Mark 6:46, Luke 5:16.


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