As the scene opens in today's Gospel reading, Jesus knows that it's time to discern which of his disciples should be trained as future leaders of the Church.
It was such an important decision that he had to surrender all of his logical thinking and his emotional feelings about who was best qualified. He had to look past their worldly credentials. He had to narrow the number down to a mere twelve out of many who could have been chosen. So he went away on a "retreat" and separated himself from all distractions, to pray. He gave his time to no one but the Father. He even devoted the entire night to the Father -- the entire night!
When we face important decisions, when we need to discern the right direction, when we prepare to do something important, do we spend enough time in prayer? Or are we easily distracted? Worry and indecision are usually signs that we haven't spent enough time alone with God.
Do we know God so well that we need less time alone with the Father than Jesus did? Conversely, is the Father such a stranger that we don't know how to get deeply in touch with him?
Usually, it seems impractical to separate ourselves from family, work, or ministry long enough to go away on a prayer retreat or even to attend daily Mass or meditate in a garden or sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament. There's always something else that begs for our attention. So, why do we even hope to hear God?
Can we really make the best decisions by guessing at God's will and trusting our own ideas? How can we proceed successfully, ready and prepared to face obstacles, if we've not already established a good connection to God's wisdom?
The more important the decision, the more necessary it is to get away from all distractions, including (or especially!) the distractions of our own will and desires. This is only possible when we slow down and pray long enough to ascend above our worldly and self-centered thinking.
Communing with God doesn't require constant chatter with him. Jesus might have slept through part of the night, but even in sleep he remained united with the Father, because he took the time to be alone with him. To empty ourselves so that our souls are alone with him, we need to silence all that is not of God, even our burdens. We have to slow down and pray long enough to release our worries to him.
Do you recognize your soul's hunger for this? How much time alone with God do you need today to better prepare for whatever you're facing -- or rather, so that he can prepare you for whatever you don't even know you'll be facing?
Here's an idea: Use my e-book Knowing God's Will and Doing It Well (catholicdr.com/ebooks/GodsWill.htm) in a self-made retreat. Find a place near your home, away from distractions, and assign a block of time for reading it slowly. Print the e-book, put it into a 3-ring binder with a sheet of blank paper between each reflection. During the retreat, journal your thoughts, feelings, ideas, worries, etc. over the course of 21 days. If you are discerning a very important decision, take a whole day for this. And don't let anything or anyone steal that precious time from you and your Lord!