Let’s go deeper into the subject of how to pray. In my last post I suggested four steps to help us enter into prayer. I’d like to explore each of these in more detail in the next few posts.
As we enter into prayer, we first choose to be still. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). That beautiful verse from Psalm 46 is the starting point for prayer; and the verse takes on even more significance as we approach Christmas.
For the next several days, traffic will be crazy and people will be running around finishing their Christmas preparations. I’ve always found it ironic that this time of year which ought to be the most peaceful–the time that we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace–is actually the most hectic. But in order to truly prepare for Christmas, we must allow our hearts and minds to be still.
For most of us, our default mode is set to “busy.” Being still, then, is a battle and takes courage. We must fight to be still.. It takes a strong act of the will to be still. To be still, we must choose a different mode: we must choose to rebel against busyness; we must choose to believe that the quality of our lives does not come from how much we do, but rather how alive we are in Christ.
Because stillness is such an important part of prayer, I do believe the environment in which we choose to pray is crucial. If you’re not able to pray in a church or chapel on a daily basis, it would serve you well to set up a sacred space in your home dedicated exclusively to prayer. It needn’t be fancy; in fact, simpler is better.
Your prayer space should be a place where distractions are minimal. Religious symbols, such as a crucifix, statues, or icons should be in place. Personally, I love to pray in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, but I also love to pray in my living room. I have a comfortable chair and a table next to it so I can reach for the Bible or a spiritual book or my cup of coffee.
As we sit–or kneel–to begin our prayer, it’s likely that our minds will be filled with distractions. As we begin, we can take some deep breaths. We can also focus on our heartbeat. Our breath and heartbeat are signs of God’s love and presence within us. We breathe because we have received the Breath of Life; our hearts beat because the Lord’s Heart beats in love for us.
As we become aware of our heartbeat and allow our breathing to slow, we enter into stillness; and it’s then that we are able to be more deeply aware of the presence of God.
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