Last week I wrote about being present to others, that is totally—heart, mind, soul, and body—with them. Perhaps I should have started with being present to God, because that is where and how we learn to be present to one another. In fact, it is the main lesson to learn as we follow Jesus: to be present to God, to all that He is doing for us, to all that He is saying to us, and to be able to sit in His presence every day. It is in Centering Prayer or other meditation forms that we learn to still our own minds so that we can, on occasion, hear what God is saying to us. The quiet practice echoes Psalm 46:10’s instruction: “Be still and know that I am God.” If we don’t learn how to quiet our own minds, we may never hear that “still small voice”(1 Kings 19:12) of God. And, if we don’t hear His voice, we will be led by some other voice inside our head which is mostly what we listen to anyway.
And how do we get to the quiet mind within our noisy thoughts, even as we sit still in meditation and prayer? In centering prayer, we use a one or two word phrase (mine is “Oh, Lord”) every time we start to think of something. Then we return to the stillness. That’s helpful, but it does not teach us to step back from the influence of our minds, particularly in meditation or prayer. We need to become an observer of our thoughts, especially to become distanced from them. Many of them are things that we have been taught in childhood. We can identify the source of some of them. I recommend that when these old thoughts come up that we smile or wave at them in our minds. After all, they are like “old friends,” they’ve been with us forever. So, if we smile or wave at them in our minds, but don’t let them stir us in any way, we can maintain that stillness.
Here are a couple of things I have heard God say to me. First, there was the time I left the community we had belonged to, because I could not longer just “belong” and started to object to what I was hearing. Then God said to me, “What do I really want to do?” instead of what I was used to: “How can I fit in here?” Or “What should I do? ” Another thing God spoke to me was this: “How can I say I love God if I can’t love my mother?” He caught my teenage rebelliousness still in me in my 40’s! So, I tried and tried to love her for two years during visits and weekly phone calls, but I was unsuccessful. Then, at the end of a weekend visiting with her, she was seeing us off at the railroad station when we were surrounded by a cloud of love—that was my experience of it. From then on, I could love her as she was and she was grateful for everything I did for her.
These two sayings of God to me were lifechanging for me. They both pointed me to a whole new way of thinking and behaving, and not just on the surface, but deep within me. Being present to God, with a still mind before Him, enables us to hear His soft voice. And what He suggests is life-changing—for the better!
There are other benefits, of course. I was co-leading a course on Gratitude some years ago and we were asking everyone to keep a gratitude journal daily. I soon realized that I was going to have to notice what God was doing in my life if I were to have anything to write down each evening in my journal. And so, I began to notice the blessings, the help, the thoughts that He was showering on me throughout my days. And that was amazing. I learned how little I had been aware of His presence other than in meditating. After 10 years or so of keeping that journal, I know what He is doing in my life, the blessings, the challenges, the help, the support, the love, and so much more. It’s been amazing to really see much of what He does with us and to see that now gratitude is the deepest part of my devotion to Him.
His presence and our ability to be present to Him are the two bedrocks of our devotion to God. Gratitude, too, and obedience to what He is telling us or showing us—I often get pictures in my mind or just impressions about what to do next or where to go. And I no longer have to think about the public prayers I offer; God supplies the words and format—everything. And when I am writing my blog or my books I no longer feel that I am inspired by the Holy Spirit. I feel that God is speaking through me now.
It’s been an amazing journey away from the fearful and doubting person I used to be into a person assured of God’s love that I am now. And I am so grateful to God for this journey and His participation in my life from the very beginning. Amen! It’s not that we will achieve perfection in loving God and others during our lifetime, but that we will be more and more devoted to Him every day if we continue to follow Him wherever He would lead us.
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I had an experience of God’s presence to me? Have I heard His “still small voice” in my mind? Do I feel tremendous gratitude for everything—blessings and challenge– that God has allowed in my life? What percentage of who I am is still attached to the world and what percentage of who I am is devoted to God?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are devoted to Him, who hear His suggestions to us and follow them faithfully. May we enjoy His presence in our lives and seek more and more of His presence with us.
Check out my website: patsaidadams.com.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will email it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.
 https://www.contemplative.org/contemplative-practice/centering-prayer/. This is a good way to learn this type of meditation.