Here are the final two tips for how to realistically pray without ceasing. These are the real heart of what I want to say. The meat of the meal.
7. God-ward focus
Don Postema writes, “Prayer is taking time to let God recreate us, play with us, touch us as an artist who is making a sculpture or painting, or a piece of music with our lives.” And I’d like to point out that it’s much easier for both the artist and the medium if it will voluntarily sit itself down on the easel or turn table and stay there a while and let the artist work.
Timothy Jones in The Art of Prayer says “For most of us, making more room for the spiritual life is not a matter of changing our daily lives, but reorienting our hearts.”
Brother Lawrence (The Practice of The Presence of God): That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with GOD, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy.
Simon Weil wrote that “prayer consists of attention.” To pray without ceasing is simply a matter of mind-multitasking.
What are some examples of mind multitasking that you have experienced? (carrying on multiple IM conversations on facebook at the same time, listening to a professor while texting)
What are some one sentence prayers you can pray for yourself while multitasking? Seriously, take time to try and answer this question in your head before reading the next sentence. Ok, here are some examples: “Lord, be with me now”; “help!”; “have mercy on me”; “give me words to say”; “give me peace”; “help me have grace for this person”; “praise you God!”; “thank you”.
What are some one sentence prayers you can “flash” on others while multitasking? How about: “Lord, be with that person”; “make your presence known to that person”; “bless that person”; “may that person sense your love”; “give that person peace”.
Imagine how this can transform your everyday life!! Instead of getting mad at the person in front of you in line who’s trying to use 18 coupons on his 46 items while in the 10 items or less line, pray for that person. Instead of being upset at the cashier who let that person go through the line, pray for that person. Or if you find yourself even having trouble praying for somebody else in the moment, pray for God to give you grace for that person. Or if you can’t eve get that far, ask God to have mercy on you even though you are mad at the person!
The point here is that focusing your attention God-ward in the mundane parts of your everyday life can and will transform how you live.
Timothy Jones in The Art of Prayer says “we can be praying underneath and through our activities, not just apart from them.”
Sure, being a reclusive monk will afford you more time and less distractions to focus on prayer, but that’s not where we live, and I don’t think it’s where we’re supposed to live. I think it’s just as holy to pray through an active “regular” day as it is to spend a day removed from the world in prayer. Although I highly recommend taking those days from time to time (pray for me, I’ve been trying for about four or five months to take one half day per month – even putting it on my calendar – to set aside for prayer and worship and time “away” with God, but I have not yet been able to do it).
What are some daily things you can be praying “underneath”? Doing the dishes, taking out the trash, vacuuming, just about any “chore”. Showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed. Try picking an appropriate prayer for the moment: while showering – “wash me clean from my sins”; while getting dressed – “clothe me in righteousness, put on the armor of God”. Driving. Eating. Tying your shoes(!) – “Kneel before the King – be king of my life”. Walking to class.
HOMEWORK: Pick three “dailies”, thing you do every day, that you will pray underneath this week. Commit to this for one week. Then come back and leave a comment on this blog to let us know how it went.
8. Create Space for God to act
Nowen says “create space in which God can act.” Yancey extrapolates, “that means sheltering space in which something unexpected and unplanned may happen. Although I cannot control the sense of God’s presence – on an emotional level, it will come and go – I can actively wait for it and attend to it.” How often do we allow for quiet, for space? Very rarely. If we’re home alone we turn on the television. In the car we turn on the radio. At the gym I’ve got my iPod. Even a magazine in the bathroom! In high school my brother put a radio in the bathroom so he could listen to it while in the shower. We don’t leave any room for “space.” We fill up all the spaces. That’s why I’ve been asking you to schedule specific times to pray during the week and write it down. Yancey says, “any time spent in prayer seems wasted to someone who has other priorities than a relationship with God. For one who loves God, however, there is no more productive, or necessary, act.”
I think it starts with not being in such a hurry. And if we are cognizant of the fact that God is in control, then it’s a little easier to relax. If we are focused on what we have and not what we want, then it’s easier to not strive so hard for everything. And when we’re able to live life at a slower pace, not worrying or striving so much, then we can be more “present” in the now, and be more aware of God in our everyday life and in our everymoment. Finding God in Unexpected Places (Philip Yancey) God is closer than you think (John Ortberg).
Look for God in the little things all throughout your day. Like Where’s Waldo. He’s there! And he has gifts for you (verse?)! Make your hourly prayer be “Show yourself to me, Lord.” Or something like that.
One of my favorite verses (and it’s popoular among many) is Psalm 46:10 which says “Be still and know that I am God” Another possible interpretation is: take time to be holy.
The author of The Practice of The Presence of God also learned this from Brother Lawrence: “Resolving to use his utmost endeavor to live, in a continual sense of His Presence, and if possible, never to forget Him.”
May God be with you. Literally.