I decided to begin with a quote from the late Henri Nouwen about the stillness, attentiveness, and patience required in the practice of mindful prayer. He says it so much better than I can.
“The discipline of prayer makes us stop and listen, wait and look, taste and see, pay attention and be aware. Although this may sound like advice to be passive, it actually demands much willpower and motivation. We may consider the discipline of prayer a form of inner displacement. The ordinary and proper response to our world is to turn on the radio, open the newspaper, go to another movie, talk to more people, or to look impatiently for new attractions and distractions. To listen patiently to the voice of the Spirit in prayer is radical displacement which at first creates unusual discomfort. We are so accustomed to our impatient way of life that we do not expect much from the moment. Every attempt to ‘live it through’ or to ‘stay with it’ is so contrary to our usual habits that all our impulses rise up in protest. But when discipline keeps us faithful, we slowly begin to sense that something so deep, so mysterious, and so creative is happening here and now that we are drawn toward it – not by our impulses but by the Holy Spirit (Henri Nouwen, Compassion p.105)”.
There have certainly been many times when I have not been ‘in the moment’ during prayer. We’ve brought our fast paced culture into the church and our spiritual disciplines. Sometimes prayer becomes an opportunity to rattle off a bunch of requests to God with the expectation that He will answer it according to our will, not His. We have been conditioned to place an emphasis on the outcome of our prayer. It is not often that we are encouraged to be mentally and physically present with God in the midst of our prayer. We habitually ask God to hear or listen to our prayer, but the traditional spiritual discipline of prayer is actually an invitation to welcome God into our presence with a receptive mind and heart already aware that an all knowing God can hear our prayers.
Before you begin one of your prayer times today, take 5 minutes before hand to sit silently in a comfortable position. Pay attention to how you feel physically. Starting from your head down to your toes. Do you feel tense, relaxed, tired, energetic, anxious, bitter, judgemental? What are you feeling physically and emotionally?
At the end of the 5 minutes reposition yourself and prepare to pray.
Say aloud: “God, I welcome you and your Holy Spirit.”
Remain still and silent until you are ready to pray.
Afterwards, without self-judgment or criticism ask yourself how this experience was for you.
Looking forward to sharing with you tomorrow! Peace.