Posted by: smstrouse | October 17, 2013

Prayer by the Ocean

I went to the ocean to pray today. I was hoping to receive some wisdom about some particualrly thorny problems. Actually, I was hoping for some answers!

I’ve come to realize that, for me, to be near the the ocean is to inhabit a thin place – as Celtic spirituality calls those places where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin, a place where we can sense the Divine more readily.

The ocean is that kind of place for me. The sight and sound of the waves, the smell of the sea, the touch of sand and rocks and shells – it’s a full-sensory prayer experience.  And I do mean prayer. I’m here for a pastors’ conference, and we’ve had lots of times of worship and prayer. Mostly all of them lovely and meaningful. But, for me, nothing like the holy communication that has happened in the times I’ve wandered away into that thin place.

I wonder what kinds of places or practices others find to be their own special ways of connecting to the Holy – of prayer, if you will. I would never make the claim that my way is THE way. I know that there are a multitude of ways to enter into holy conversation: music, art, poetry, silence, etc.

It’s been of immense importance to me to come to this awareness. I know that I need to come to the ocean to pray – with words and without. I have encountered Wisdom here these past few days, not necessarily answers, but insight, peacefulness and renewed strength for the tasks ahead.

Now as I’m preparing to leave, listening to the barking of sea lions not too far off shore, I make a new commitment to prayer by the ocean. Thankfully  I live in a place where this is not difficult!

What has been a thin place for you?


  1. I thank you so much for sharing the ocean as your thin place for prayer. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the ocean, and I could sense the same feelings that you have shared with me, and I can see and recognize that a lot more now. Thank you so much. I would love to share with you my experience with prayer, and my thin place for such an experience.

    I have always grown up with the principle of prayer in my life, but for me, it has been more of me, as you have said, finding those thin places. I have found for myself, that I have found that place for me when I am at my church buildings, but especially, the Temple, or the House of the Lord. A Temple in my church, the LDS Church is a sacred building set aside for a higher worship to the Lord, just as in times of old there were temples set aside for those sacred ordinances, it is that for me today, and it is also a place of peace, reverence, hope, joy, love, tranquility, etc.

    I know I can pray anywhere, and I do, but when I am at the temple, I am that much aware to what the Lord has in store for me, and what he would have me do. Any problem, or concern, or if I just want to be that much closer, I can take it there, and put it before the Lord, and see what he would have me do.

    I am always sad when I have to leave the temple, but I always know that that is thin place for me to go to and to pray, and receive guidance, and direction, and that I can always go back.

    The Temple, or the House of the Lord is a thin place for me to go and pray, and receive those answers from the Lord.

    So, you have stated that you were at a pastors’ conference, so you must be busy, and it must be hard for you to take time, or even find time to go to these thin places, as it is for all of us. What advice would you give to someone in your congregation who is in need of these thin places? For example, a family with a busy mother with 5 kids, and a father that works 70+ hours a week.


    • Dear Micah,
      I hear your struggle to find time to pray in the midst of a very busy life. I’ve been back at work for a week and am again fully immersed in the jam-packed fall calendar. I found myself longing for the ocean so much that I downloaded a CD with the sounds of of ocean waves to listen to when I need a ‘fix.’

      There are no simple answers to your question. One thing, though, that I have come to appreciate is the idea written of by Brother Lawrence in his little book “Practicing the Presence of God.” He advises that we try to see every moment as a time of awareness of the presence of God with us – whether we’re washing dishes, mopping the floor or stuck in traffic. Now I can attest that this isn’t always an easy thing to do. But when I can pause for a moment and remember, then I think that every moment has the potential to be a thin place.

      Time away is a wonderful thing, but it’s also wonderful to practice this everyday awareness. I took a walk this week and kept reminding myself to slow down and pay attention to things along the way. I was surprised and delighted at the little things I noticed; I even stopped and took a few pictures to remember.

      My advice to a member of my congregation and to you would be to be gentle with yourself. Practice the presence of God; God will be there for you whatever you’re doing. Then, be on the lookout for small ways that you might be able to grab just a few moments to listen to some meditative music or look at an inspirational picture, for instance.

      My best to you and your family!

      PS – maybe others reading this blog have some advice as well???


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