So here is how my morning prayer goes sometimes. I begin everyday thanking God for my grandchildren and lifting them up for God’s blessing. I begin with the oldest, Harper. “God I lift up Harper; I am so grateful that she is in my life. I lift her up for your blessing. It is such a joy to watch her growing up and she is growing up so fast. In fact, those pants she wore to school today were too short. I should buy her some pants….from the Gap. Yes, we like their pants. But how about the ones from Kohls? Do I have a coupon for Kohls?” And there it is…. I am not praying; I’m shopping. And every time I try to get back on track, the sales pages from the websites intrude.
How do we focus and find the silence? How can we get our brains to slow it down? Here’s a trick that all school teachers know. I used it every week in my 30+ years of teaching second grade Sunday School. When the room was in chaos and it was time to sit and listen, I would clap a pattern. The idea is for the children to hear the pattern and respond. One by one the children fall in and start clapping. You continue (varying the pattern) until every child is clapping. You have then shifted their attention from whatever they were doing to listening for the pattern and repeating it. It works every time.
Our brains need that as well. Our mind needs a place to go, at least until we train ourselves to get to that place of silence and still. It is no coincidence that most meditations begin with some kind of chant, or a focus on breathing. I read in a prayer book to breath in the Holy Spirit, slowly focusing on the breath and breathe out the chaos and the noise. The presence of the Holy Spirit is important here. When the process seems impossible we need to remember that we don’t do this alone. Jesus sent us an advocate, a teacher to help us along the way.
I am leading a couple of “small groups” studying Reuben Job’s book, “Listen- Praying in a Noisy World.” The book starts with the principle that in 40 days (as in Lent) you can form a habit, a discipline. The book then sets a pattern or process for daily prayer. (You can order the book from Amazon, or there are guides on You tube) It begins with a short formal prayer.
Here is this week’s opening prayer:
“Holy God of unconditional love and unlimited presence, I come to make myself fully available to you, your will and your way. Speak to me gently and clearly, for I am yours and desire to hear, understand, and be obedient to your slightest whisper. Speak, for I am listening.”
The next step is to sit in silence. “Quiet your soul before God, extending the time a little more each day.” (I timed mine the first day…was sure it had been at least 10 minutes. It had been three.) Silence is not easy for me, so I use the breathing exercise. Next read a scripture; think and reflect on what you have read. Then:
“Pray for the world, its leaders, its people.
Pray for those whose live touch mine today.
Pray for myself and those in my care.
Then pray the prayer Jesus taught…(the Lord’s Prayer).”
The key here is routine and focus, to set a discipline.
The good thing is that God will meet us wherever we are. If we come to Him with an open mind and an open heart, He will take it from there.