The Art of Praying

Meditation has long been seen as an art of sitting, doing nothing. Many of the early Desert Fathers and later Christian mystics also focused on meditation. The difference is to whom or what on are you meditating (just don’t like ending sentences with prepositions, it’s just one of my things). Many attempt to clear the mind of nothing, to focus on nothing, only the breathing and not being.

In the modern world today, this is what people wish to focus on. But praying isn’t like this. But at the same time, in many ways it is. There’s something about a strong spiritual health when one is praying and focusing on God. When we focus on nothing, then we are focusing on nothing. This nothingness though at the time might feel freeing, in fact is a bit more like draining the water before cooking the noodles. To empty it out without first putting something in just doesn’t make sense.

In the book of Psalms, constantly there is a call to meditate on God’s word, to focus on it, to pay attention to it. To have it written on your heart. The same is in praying to God. There is something about focusing on the word of God when coming to Him in prayer. In putting God’s word first in our prayer, we are able to use this to focus our prayers and to whom we are praying.

But, you might just say, aren’t we supposed to bring our requests to God? Aren’t we supposed to talk with Him? Aren’t we supposed to lay all of our anxieties at his feet? Yes, yes we are. But try not to be a chatterbox about it. Prayer is focusing on God, but it is also a time to focus on how God is present with you.

For a long time I used to say “God, be with us.” Well, he already has been with me. Recently, I’ve instead began praying “God, let me know you are present today, let me walk with you today and be with you.” This has changed how I’ve noticed God working in my life.

I also used to end prayers with “If it be your will.” Again, recently I started realizing that this was more of a copout, it made an “out” for God if it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. So the answer was no. Okay then, I guess it wasn’t God’s will and then I walk away not getting anything. I started realizing that instead I needed to pray “God, as I’m following you, let me do your will, help me to know your will as I step forward in faith.” I’ve been realizing that my previous pray was being passive, asking God to act upon me verses what I’ve been praying that I act with God accordance to his will.

I’ve also been learning to be still. This goes back to the focusing on God’s word and to not doing. I’ve done this so many times before: I come to God with a laundry list of things that are on my mind, I say amen and leave. That’s like going to a doctor on crutches and saying “Doc, I think I broke my ankle and I’d like for it to be healed” and them promptly leaving.

No. Bring your anxieties to God and then stop. Stop and listen. Sit still. Sit still and know that he is there. Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on His word. Pray his Word.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Try this for today: Quietly sit and pray. Don’t set a timer. Don’t give yourself a time limit. Just sit and pray.

Pray “God, help me to not be anxious about anything. Lead me to do everything by prayer and petition. Work within me to be thankful and bring my requests to you. Give me your peace which transcends all understanding. Let me see in my life who Christ is guarding my heart and mind.”

Then sit, breathe, listen for God, slowly praying for his presence to be felt and known, slowly praying that Christ reigns in your prayers leading you along his paths of righteousness, that the Holy Spirit fills you with His breath and is lifting your prayers to God.

And pray.

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