The title of this post likely put several thoughts in your head. "Hey, have you guys seen 'The Holy Grail'"? "Why is it so quiet in here?" "Robes, really? It's August. Plus they're out of season." Or you may have had spiritually superior thoughts, and if so I apologize profusely.
I want to use "monastery" as a symbol - a symbol for the portable place where we come in silence and solitude to encounter God. It may be a time, or a literal place, or just a season, but let's pretend that whatever that sacred reality is for you that it is now called a "monastery." Within that space, here are five key things you should never say:
1. "I can't say that to God" - If God can handle the explosive emotion of the Psalms or of Job, He certainly is not afraid of the honest and pained depths of your heart. He knows you and created you in your inmost being, and is probably a bit curious when you pretend that your lack of speech equals leads to His ignorance on the issue.
2. "I'm nodding off - I'm such a horrible person" - Granted, if you're doing this before work or another commitment you may have other issues to address, but if you are simply celebrating time with God and begin to drift off it's important to realize what's going on. Your body needs rest. It's possible that you're taking Jesus' words to "Come to me...and I will give you rest" literally.
3. "This doesn't agree with my theology" - a good rule of thumb is that when you are in the presence of God, praying and seeking Him, lay down your agenda. If you don't believe in the spiritual gift of tongues but suddenly start speaking in a way you don't understand, go with it. This is your time with God - and God has the best in mind for your time.
4. "I have to stop thinking about______" - unless it's inherently disobedient and evil, your thoughts can inform your prayer. If you're haunted by the same thought over and over again, write it down and come back to it later. If that doesn't take it out of your mind, then pray about that thought. Pray for that person who keeps coming to mind, pray about your struggle with that issue or situation that simply won't release.
5. "I just need to pray/listen/try harder" - this isn't school. It isn't golf or art or anything that can be improved by greater effort. In fact, greater effort can become a distraction. The key idea is training - you can't try harder to listen, but you can remove things that keep you from listening well. For example, shut off your tech stuff before entering your "monastery."
Remember, the monastery is portable - it goes on trains, on your drive, in your kitchen, even in the bathroom - take it with you and remember that the God you meet there doesn't run from people, He runs towards them.