Lord God, how beautiful the process! The sources of insight, inspiration, encouragement, and direction all stem from You, but differ in hue. I may not see how these voices unite, but I trust that through You, O God, I will bear light today, tomorrow, and in the processes, which continue to come. You are present, I mustn’t forget. May I and all who similarly desire, be mindful of Your presence, growing in Christlikeness. These things I humbly pray. Amen.
I read the story of Jesus’ temptation (Luke 4:1-14) and then sat in silence for 20 or 30 minutes. My gaze drifted to the cover of the book on my lap. The cover’s simple design featured the image of the cross in gold, which contrasted the deep maroon background. Apparently I had been staring at the cover for a while because when I shifted my gaze to the concrete patio beneath my feet, I could see a blurry image of a maroon cross. The suggestion-of-a-cross seemed to float in front of my gaze—much like the black spots that appear after one has been subjected to a photograph with flash.
In my somewhat meditative state, I likened the focal point of the golden cross on my book cover to an intentional focus on God and His word. First, reading, praying, singing, and-or memorizing the words and ways of God help awaken us to the instances of His grace and truth. They seem to clearly emerge from the scenes of our daily life. We can’t blink them away.
Second, when we focus on God’s words and strive to live His ways, we become that maroon suggestion-of-a-cross that danced in front of my gaze. We become a representation of Christ for others. We point to God just as Jesus directed Satan toward God’s words in the temptation story. Jesus reflected the truth revealed by the Father. The word of God was His defense, and He enlivened it through word and deed. We have the same defense when God’s word becomes a focal point and compass for our lives.
Jesus said… ‘Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
(John 4:14, NRSV)The story of John 4:5-13 in sonnet form Then Jesus rested by dear Jacob’s well Alone because the twelve were getting food A woman came, a local, you could tell He spoke to her (an action poorly viewed) “Give me a drink,” sweetJesus, He did say The woman questioned the remark He made Enlightening the woman of His way, Christ Jesus spoke of living, lasting aid Intrigued, the woman wanted water new The “living water” Jesus told her of She didn’t fully grasp His point of view, Which pointed to renewal from above Our thirsts so frequently are earthly bound We miss God’s grace and truth that’s so profound!
The house is quiet. The gentle drone of the humidifier fan and the steady pulsing of the clock create the background music or accompaniment for a different sort of song–one without words and without a melody. This song has a flexible tempo marked solely with audible inhalations and exhalations. The song is strophic, which means each verse has the same music, or in this case, the same flow of yoga positions: sun salutations.
On the first day of spring, I watched a video of two yoga enthusiasts performing 108 sun salutations to celebrate the spring equinox. I wasn’t familiar with the tradition, but I later learned that 108 is a significant number in Hinduism and certain schools of yoga. I found the practice intriguing. However, since 108 holds little significance to me, I decided to try 40 repetitions—one for each day of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. (Mark 1:12-13)
Although at first I thought that the sun salutation experience might stimulate deep, meaningful thoughts; I realized I mustn’t try to attach meaning to the exercise. I mustn’t try to create some sort of benefit that didn’t exist at the time. The practice itself was sufficient. The movement became a simple, outwardly expressed song for God. I repeatedly raised my hands heavenward. I listened to my own breathing, and grew increasingly grateful for my body and breath. The experience aligned with the spiritual disciplines that members of my church and I have been exploring this Lenten season.
*Silence *Solitude *Meditation *Simplicity *Prayer *Worship
Praying aloud grew less daunting with time and practice. I pray that fact gives hope to all you other public prayer novices. To all of you who have a comfortable prayer routine, I invite you to journey with me and try new ways to pray.
Remembering your first encounters with prayer.
During my first week of college, I heard some excitable freshmen exclaim, “The professors pray before class! I’ve never been to a school where they prayed before class! That’s really cool!” I shook my head, thinking, “Soon the novelty will wear off.” Since I had attended a few years of Christian high school prior to college, prayer before class seemed commonplace to me. At the time, I thought that the freshmen’s words revealed their naiveté, but now I admire the freshness and enthusiasm in their perspective.
A similarly fresh spirit of enthusiasm abounds in many passages of scripture, such as these words from Psalm 145:I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. (Vs.1-2, 5, NKJV)
Could you honestly pray the psalmist’s words? Psalm 145 through Psalm 150 all praise God with enthusiastic words. Are you this excited to pray?
Revisiting my first encounters with prayer—the times when I felt excited to pray or stood amazed at how prayer could intersect my life at unforeseen times—helps in pursuits of revitalizing current prayer practices. I not only rediscover my first, exciting encounters with prayer, but I also aim to ignite a more deeply rooted joy than that of a student during the “honeymoon phase” of freshman year. If you decide to rediscover meaningful and awe-inspiring instances of prayer, I hope these memories propel you into a deeper and more meaningful prayer practice.
On the day of the prayer service I practiced praying aloud despite my nerves. I often battled concerned thoughts and nervous energy during my high school years. I was nervous, but I was also willing. Ultimately, I wanted to triumph, not cower.
A call to generosity in 2 Corinthians encouraged me on so many occasions. In this passage Paul reminds the people of Corinth that Jesus gave so generously. “For our sakes, He became poor” (v. 8, 9). He offered parables and lessons, prayers, miracles, time, and energy! He sacrifice His life for us! Jesus gave with incredible generosity and willingness, and Paul urges the Corinthians to do likewise. He writes, “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12, NKJV).
On that sunny day of prayer, my nerves may have temporarily diverted my focus from the prayerful offerings of others, but I believe God saw my willingness to pray aloud and forgave my inattentiveness
The sun shone brightly over the field where my classmates and I sat. On that beautiful spring day, members of the high school choir sang at an outdoor prayer service. We were invited to sing and then stay for the remainder of the prayer service. “This is sweet!” I thought to myself. “We got out of class for an extended period of time, and we get to offer meaningful music on this beautiful day!” My enthusiasm dropped a bit as I realized that I might be called upon to pray aloud in a small group.
I sat among a circle of my peers and pulled on the grass as I tried to prepare some prayerful words in advance. I did not want to sound like an idiot; so when I thought of prayer-worthy material, I repeated it over and over to ensure I wouldn’t forget the wording. The prayers offered by my peers never reached my ears. My mind was consumed with the words I would contribute.
Perhaps I cold have been more attentive to the entirety of the prayer to which I was contributing, but I was a novice in the praying aloud department. I felt much more comfortable praying in solitary silence—so comfortable that I may have even grown lazy in my personal prayer practice. However, when praying aloud with others, I couldn’t afford such passivity. Whatever I prayed in that small group, I offered with intentionality and heart because my nervous energy led me to actively repeat and meditate upon my prayer.
I invite you to try my motions for Colossians 3:14-16, NKJV.
But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
- I suggest listening to music that reflects the feelings of the selected passage. I will be listening to an instrumental version of the “How Can I Keep From Singing?” because the music is peaceful and uplifting.
- Start seated in a cross-legged position with your hands (palms down) on your thighs. Inhale and exhale at a relaxed pace.
- Then sweep your arms out to the side and up over your head. During this fluid motion think to yourself of speak aloud “But above all these things…”
- Place the palms of your hands together in a prayer-like position above your head, and slowly bring them down in front of your chest while thinking or saying, “…put on love…”
- Next, fold/cross your arms—“which is the bond of perfection.” As you say the word “perfection,” gaze upward, acknowledging God in heaven.
- As you move onto the next line of text, “And let the peace of God…” relax your arms back down to your thighs—this time with your palms up. I like to imagine I’m receiving God’s peace right there in my hands.
- Make a fist in one hand and bring that fist to your chest as you say “rule.” As you continue the line, “…rule in your hearts,” rest your other hand on top of fist.
- Now stand as you say, “…To which also you were called…”
- Extend both arms to the side, so you are making the letter T with your body. Perhaps this pose reminds you of Jesus’ position on the cross. We are all one in Jesus. Or maybe, like me, you imagine that you’re extending your arms to people next to you. In this posture, say, “…in one body…”
- As you say, “And be thankful,” raise your both arms overhead. When I do this motion, I straighten my elbows, and tilt my hands to expose the palms of my hands.
- Kneel down on the floor or on a pillow (or return to a cross-legged position if you have sore knees), and fold your hands in a prayer-position, saying, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”
- Staying in that posture, bring your head to meet your hands and say, “in all wisdom.”
- Return to a standing posture as you say “teaching and admonishing one another…”
- Now it’s time for a walk (in a circle, or in a line, or wherever you feel led). Take large, small, or medium-sized steps—one for “psalms,” one for “hymns,” and one for “spiritual songs.”
- “…Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Maybe you want to lift your arms overhead. Maybe you prefer to return to a prayer-like position. Perhaps you could turn around as you say this last line.