sweet hour of prayer
I hope the meditation's gone well over the past week! What have you learned? Have you enjoyed it? Hated it? Think I'm crazy? Send me a message to let me know what you think!
If you've made it through the mediation, I'll bet you spent a lot of time thinking about people, events, work, and all the things going on in your life. Maybe you gained new insight or changed or altered the direction of your life.
The more time you spend sitting quietly and thinking, the better you become at listening to what's going on in your own mind. At first, I found my thoughts to be so chaotic that I couldn't bear to sit still for a whole hour. I thought of all kinds of fun things to do (everything from practicing organ to writing this blog) that would start stimulating my mind again and restart the constant dopamine stream I'm so used to having at all hours of the day.
As long as I'm meditating, I try to make it so that I'm in the driver's seat–nothing should distract or stimulate my thoughts except what's in my own head. It's a time for me to process and put things in order. It's a time for me to decide what's important and what's not. It's a time to step back and take a bird's eye view of the day, week, month, and my whole life.
When I do that, I start to see important patterns. If you remember the example with my professor who struggles to teach effectively, you'll remember how consciously considering the situation led to steps I could take the next day to improve it. But what if I told you there's something you could do while you're meditating that would immediately have real effects in your life and the lives of everyone around you?
This thing is the next part of my series on Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. You can read the whole series here:
what is prayer?
I've heard so many definitions of what prayer might be: asking God for things, telling him what you think or how you feel, listening to God, or even allowing him to change your heart and mind. Regardless of how you define it, prayer involves opening your mind to both speak and listen to God.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 NIV
Isn't that beautiful? Through the simple act of prayer, you put your heart and your mind into the care of Jesus who will guard them with the peace of God. Do you need more peace in your life? Try prayer.
The number of times scripture mentions prayer is astounding. Here's a hundred for you to read (on my favorite Bible reference website):
how to pray
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:25-28 NIV
There is no wrong way to pray. I would even go so far as to say that if something is on our heart, God's already listening to whatever it is. When you use words to pray, the words are for your benefit, not God's. He already knows what you want to say before you say it. In this way, prayer stems naturally from meditation.
When you take away outside stimulation, you let all the things in your heart float up into your conscious thoughts. It helps you know what you really want and what you really need.
Now that you've discovered what's on your heart, the next step in your spiritual growth is to acknowledge that you are powerless to control the circumstances you find yourself in, yet you really, really, really want someone to take care of them. What if you could give them to someone who is all-powerful and works for the good of those who love him.
The way I understand prayer right now (you are welcome and encouraged to disagree with me here) is that prayer is an act of humility and submission. Every prayer involves admitting to yourself and to God that you prefer the way God runs things better than you prefer running them yourself. Way back in the beginning, when God made you in his image, he gave you authority over the earth. You get to do whatever you want with it! You could be like all the despots of history and try to turn the world into your own version of, "good." Or, you could make the much better decision to humbly accept what God says is good and allow him to work through you.
Prayer is ceding control to God. This week, every time you find yourself thinking about someone (especially while you meditate), pray for them. Create this habit (this discipline): thinking leads to prayer.
If you think about it, pray about it. If it crosses your mind, admit that you would rather have God control it than to deal with it yourself. If you're worried about saying or doing the wrong thing, pray about it and remember that God works good "in all things" where "all things" includes our blunders.
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