Social distancing doesn’t mean being stuck in the house. Go outdoors, exercise, encounter God in Creation, and as you walk along the quiet streets pray for your neighbours.
Through the centuries many have sought to draw close to God by saying a simple prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’. Repeated over and again, not in a spirit of heaping up empty words, but persisting, taking the teaching seriously, ‘pray without ceasing’, this is about turning the heart towards God. The ‘Jesus Prayer’ can be very powerful. It reminds us where we stand. Jesus is Lord.
Or, as you walk, you might want to think of Peter’s prayer, having stepped onto the waters, towards Jesus, but feeling himself sinking, ‘Lord, save me!’ Or, walking past your neighbours’ houses, and greeting them with a friendly wave and a smile, you could make that personal prayer a shared one, as inwardly you pray, ‘Lord, save us!’
Walking and being conscious of God’s presence in the familiar neighbourhood where we live helps us to remember that our whole life is a pilgrimage. By grace we are part of God’s chosen people. God is always with us. The Welsh priest and poet, R. S. Thomas, reflected on this, in a poem written after encountering God in a flash of beauty on a cloudy Snowdonian hillside. Ask God to reveal himself to you in ways that take you by surprise.
‘The Bright Field’
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
R. S. Thomas (1913-2000)