Updated: Aug 15
It’s strange, but the more I need prayer, the less I pray. And I am not talking about intercessory prayer or the ongoing conversation with God I have throughout the day, but the prayer that centers and grounds me in the sacred wholeness in which we have our being. The contemplative prayer that tunes our hearts to the sacred melody of God’s love. The kind of prayer that reaches down into the depths of our soul watering the parts that are parched, consoling the parts that feel lost, and healing the parts that are broken. This kind of prayer–the kind that I need–seems to be the first thing I let go of.
When life gets busy and there are too many details to pay attention to, something has to give and too often it is prayer time. I have great excuses: “I’m too busy,” or “I just have to complete this task,” or “How can I think about taking some time to just be when there is so much to get done?” My brain starts spinning with unformed ideas, hypothetical problems, and potential solutions, shifting rapidly from one to the other so that my productivity is somewhat limited and what I really need to do is just stop, breathe, and pray.
Too often our culture measures an activities value with productivity. A thing is good if it produces something. We have spent our time well if there is something at the end we can point to and say, “I did that.” Prayer may feel like unproductive time in that there is not something particularly tangible that is produced and, at least for me, I think that is one of the reasons that I am so quick to let my prayer time go. In the midst of so much to do, do we really have time to stop and just be in the presence of God?
Of course, the simple answer is yes. We always have time to stop, breathe, and pray, because a prayer can be a simple wordless sigh or an elaborate ritual built over time. Even five minutes of contemplative practice can reorient ourselves towards what is truly important. When I do stop, breathe, and pray, I find myself refreshed and my focus renewed with all the to-do’s put into perspective. At the end of the day, inhabiting God’s love in every circumstance is more important than checking off every item on my list; being present and engaged is more important than being productive. The list is never completed and there is always more to do, but rooting ourselves so deeply in God that Christ spills out through our words and actions can transform the worlds we inhabit.
I encourage all of us to be more intentional about stopping, breathing, and praying this week. Maybe we could hold each other accountable or check in with each other as the week goes on. Maybe you do not have a prayer practice that works for you and if this is the case, reach out. I am always happy to explore with others the vast array of ways people have used to pray over the centuries.
In the book of Acts, we read about Paul preaching in Athens and he describes God as the one in whom "we live and move and have our being." Prayer is a way to live into this reality of who we are. It is how we center and ground ourselves. It is the thing from which all our actions should arise. And only then will we be able to truly be Christ's hands and feet working in the world.