FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: What to do when you’re alone but need better company
Good week to all: Welcome to the “front porch.”
Recently, I had a study and visit with a very special 20-something friend who had just moved 300 miles from Little Rock to Houston. As we talked, I asked what her goals were now that she had relocated. Her answer surprised me. She gave a few of the replies you would expect from a young lady, but then she said that she’d like to learn how to be alone.
Ah, out of the mouths of children.
For 14 years I listened to as many as 200 students a year rehearse their goals in a speech; and, in all that time, I do not believe I ever heard one say, “I’d like to learn to be alone.”
I took that goal as learning to handle “alone-time” better, not so much learning to be “single” better. I may have mistaken her intent. Still, the only good answer I think I could give her was to work on learning to be alone with God. If we do that, I expect we can handle any other challenges Aloneness brings us.
We talked a good while about David and the psalms, because David understood well the challenge of solitude, spending many a day and night tending to his sheep out on a secluded, expansive Bethlehem hillside – just he and God.
For several days after my young friend and I visited, I thought about what she had said. One morning this past week, I ran across an old sermon by an 1800s preacher on the 51st psalm. The old writers, somehow, seem a little closer to my own age, and my way of thinking. You understand.
In that psalm, David is pleading to the Lord for a much-needed cleansing. He remembers his failures – they are etched too deeply ever to forget – and seeks forgiveness. “Wash me,” he will say at one point, “and I shall be whiter than snow.” David must have had a great understanding of God’s grace and mercy.
Then he makes three unique requests in the middle of his prayer:
“Renew a right spirit within me – Uphold me with a willing spirit, and – Take not your Holy Spirit from me” (vs. 10-12).
Three distinct prayers involving the “spirit,” three powerful alone-time prayers.
The one prayer is for the Lord not to take His Holy Spirit from him. The old writer points out that David does not enjoy the Spirit in the same way as the Lord promises the Spirit – the “Paraclete” of John 14 – to those who obey the gospel. But he is an inspired man and an anointed king; so, he does enjoy the presence of the Spirit in a special way, and he knows that without God’s Spirit he cannot take one step. That, then, becomes one of his alone-time prayers.
Next, he prays for a “willing” spirit – a “right” spirit, says the King James. David knows that for him to have any hope of God’s cleansing he must cultivate a willing heart. He needs a heart bound to the Lord’s Spirit.
David’s third desire for a “free” spirit – that is, a “constant, firm” spirit. We see a logical progression in David’s desperate prayer: Lord, he says, supply me with your Holy Spirit so that my own spirit may be willing and may be firm.
As I read from the 1800s preacher and meditated on the words of the psalmist, my mind went to my young friend and to her unique desire to learn to be alone. There are, I suppose, a thousand answers to that innocent desire; but, for a start, those three powerful prayers from Israel’s greatest poet will do. Whenever you have some much-needed alone’time but feel you still need better company – well, that'd be a good time to take three powerful prayers to the Lord.
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text 972-824-5197.