We know what prayer is, right? The Lord’s Prayer. Petitions. The prayer is in the words that we send up to God. Those are prayers, wonderful ones, yes, but only a small part of praying. Praying mostly consists of opening ourselves up—heart, mind, soul and body—to the presence of God. We can access his presence anywhere, anytime that we are still and quiet within us, anytime we focus on God, anytime that we open our whole selves up to God.
Praying, being in God’s presence, is about a lot more that forming words and saying them up God. It is about our being present—with 100% of ourselves–to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. If our minds are distracted, or there is discomfort in our bodies, or our heart is just not in it and we haven’t engaged our souls, we’re just not able to be with God.
The goal is to commune with God, to be totally in his presence, to open ourselves up to the experience of this moment, this time. This is true communion, not symbolic, when our minds touch and are touched by God. It’s where we begin to experience just who God is, who God is revealing himself to be to each of us. It’s how we each build our own personal experience of God, a body of knowledge and knowing about who God is.
The only thing that stands in our way of communion with God is ourselves: our own preoccupations, expectations, indeed, the way we think about or have been taught about how God has been defined to us. But we are invited all the time through the hints and suggestions of the “still, small voice” or “whisper” within of 1 Kings 19 to come into his presence and to listen to what he wants us to hear right now, in this time and place. If we take Psalm 46:10 seriously, “Be still and know that I am God,” we will learn how to quiet our minds.
Our inability to quiet our own interior mind’s chatter, the endless repetition of the admonitions grounded in our own self-concept from childhood, comes from all the guilt and shame, all the things our parents tried to teach us, all that the schools reinforced. These formed the walls in us early on which still stand between us and God, because we felt we were unacceptable in one way or another. Mainly, these feelings about ourselves came from a child’s inability to remember all the rules and to obey them even most of the time. It takes a long time to train a child, something that we don’t know as children. And so we build up guilt and shame within us about ourselves.
And so we depend on the surface prayers, the rote ones, or the ones where we seek to bend God’s will to our will for ourselves, for our children or spouse or relative or friend. And we may pray more and more desperately if we don’t think our prayers are not answered. We may lose trust in God if the answers don’t match what we asked for. We may lose our faith, because we don’t really know God and can’t understand what he is trying to tell us.
To go beyond the surface in praying we have to learn how to step back from our own thinking and just allow the moment to be with God present and ourselves present to God. Nothing more is needed than to do that everyday.
Our Bible study should go the same way. When we read a passage, it’s not about what we already know about it, how it has been interpreted to us. We are to read a passage and to sit with it until God reveals what he wants us to see today in it.
We may enter this present moment in our house or out in nature, just sitting and focused on something that catches our eye or a verse that speaks to us(for some reason!), or in a conversation with another(where we are also present to God).
It’s best if entering the presence of God is a daily act, or several times daily. There is a tremendous spillover effect into the rest of your life—you will be able to hear God’s voice within you at all times during the day, helping you prioritize your commitments, how to tackle an issue or, say, a difficult boss, what to say to your children, what to do next. God wants to be intimately involved in the day-to-day stuff of our lives. He would walk through it all with us, if we would let him. He would be our partner in living the life we’ve been given.
There’s another way to pray that I have found particularly helpful with my own problematic behavior—with something I’ve said or done that is not right, or with attitudes that are not loving. Aside from apologizing, I have used intention, a focused kind of prayer that draws us into God’s will for us, as a way to keep turning over the less appetizing parts of myself to God. It is a great way of aligning ourselves with God’s will for us.
When I’ve done something I’m not proud of, I lift the circumstances up to God as an intention to no longer need to be harsh or uncaring or self-centered, to state my prayer as positively as I can with my whole being. That’s my part. The rest is all God’s. Months later I may notice that I am feeling integrated(a whole new feeling) or no longer have problems with someone to whom I had reacted badly. What I’ve been given to understand happens with setting an intention is that I have opened the door to that area of my life to the Holy Spirit. I have invited him to do the work of transforming me, and later I will notice the work has been done in me. Intention aligns us with God’s will for us and moves us along in our journey with God, moving us closer to God and to what he wants for us.
I am sure that each of us needs to find our own way in prayer with God, that no two prayer lives look the same. We do want to cover all the bases in prayer—petitions, the Lord’s Prayer, Communion with the Lord and setting intentions, praying with the Bible. Each one will bring us closer and closer to the Lord. After all that is the whole purpose of our lives. But keep the main focus of our prayer life to be communing with the Lord.
Questions to ponder over the week: How do I fill my prayer time with the Lord? With petitions or presence? Am I intent on being in God’s presence and listening for his wisdom for me in the silence we enjoy together? Do I find ways to sit in silence in God’s presence daily, regularly?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who know him intimately. May we devote our hearts, our minds, our souls and our strength to Godin love. May we come to depend on the Lord every day in every aspect of our lives.
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!” is up on Amazon. Check it out under my full name, Patricia Said Adams or Patricia Adams, if you’re interested. If you’ve already read it, I would love for you to post a rating or comment on Amazon or Good Reads–the ratings bring in readers.
Find out more about me at bythewaters.net
or on YouTube at By the Waters with Pat Adams
or on Twitter at BTWwithPatAdams.