Our definition of prayer these days is mostly confined to spoken/memorized prayers and petitions to God for ourselves and others. That’s a small container for what prayer can be: it is meant to be an ongoing dialogue with God about where we are and what we’re asking for in our lives and then listening for what His answers would be. Prayer happens throughout our days, in our challenges and in our blessings. It consists of gratitude, of questions, of doubts, and of asking for help at work and in relationships at home. It asks for healing for all that stands between us and God and healing for other people. It expresses our fears and aspirations. It really should encompass all that we are and all that we do. It can happen while we’re out walking, sitting at our desks at work, driving around town, at dinner/lunch/breakfast whether at home or dining out. And it happens when we are meditating/learning how to hear God’s “still small voice” of 1 Kings 19:12 within us. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, prayer arises in us as we seek help, support, and living in the kingdom.
We need to live into this kind of prayer, to seek out God throughout our days. One thing that really helped me with this was to keep a gratitude journal every evening. As soon as I decided to keep this journal, I realized that I was going to have to notice where God was active in my day so that I would have something to write down each evening. And so, I began to see exactly what God was doing for me and with me. It really has been a revelation for me how active He was and is in my life. Years after I stopped keeping the journal, I can still see how active God is in my life. My eyes had been opened!
The other skill we have to develop is to be aware of His presence in our lives and to be able to be present to Him and to what is happening right now any time so that we are not distracted by what’s next on our agenda or not really paying attention to whoever we’re with. Meditation is the best way to do accomplish both of these tasks. In meditating we have to learn to still our minds. It is not possible to end our thoughts, but it is possible not to be distracted by them. We need to become an observer of our thoughts instead of being activated by them. These repetitive thoughts, especially the “shoulds’ and “have-tos” have been with each of us for since our early childhood. The first thing to do is to identify the source of each repetitive thought in your mind. It was probably your parents or some other close relative. The second thing to do is to “smile” or “wave” at them when they come up—after all they are “old friends” and have probably been with you forever. If we don’t follow our thoughts, then we are just observing them. And when they are just observed they tend to fade away. And so, we can move back to our own stillness. If it is Centering Prayer you are doing, you can use the word or phrase you chose to return to the stillness.
As we relax into a meditative practice, we can begin to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit within us. First, it is much quieter than our own thoughts. Secondly, His ideas are not at all like our thoughts. Be prepared to always follow those thoughts, to do what they ask of you, and you will then experience what God has in store for you right then. The more you hear and follow His thoughts, the more you will become the person He created you to be.
Just to sit in His presence is so comforting, even when He is not speaking to you. His presence is full of peace and love, we are calmed and directly connected to Him at last. And there is a spill-over affect in your life. Once you can be present to God, you can be totally present—not thinking about anyone or anything else—to any person you are with. And they can sense your presence as love, that is, God’s love through your focus on them alone—what a gift to the other person!
Prayer has many ways of being in our lives and yet it is always about being in the presence of our Lord and Master. It is always about the two-way dialogue between the Lord and us who love the Lord, even when we are with someone else.
Questions to ponder over the week: How expansive is your prayer life? Does it include spoken prayers, memorized prayers, healing prayers for ourselves and others, and silence, sitting in His presence? Can you hear the “still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12)?” And then, do you do what the Lord suggests to you?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God whose prayer life is expansive, going from memorized prayers, to expressing all that is within us, to healing prayers for ourselves and others, to just sitting in the presence of God. May we faithfully attend to His suggestions for us.
Check out my two websites: patsaidadams.com and deepeningyourfaith.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.