Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Avoiding prayer for all we're worth.

Have you ever tried to pray for more than a few moments? I know, for most people on this journey the answer is "yes." Yet often when we face the daunting silence of prayer, I fear we step away. We are probably convinced that the old saying is truly wise: "Don't just sit there. Do something!"

I am seeking to spend more time in praying. This has meant for me longer times of prayer. Here are the challenges I meet: Silence, a racing mind, and that incessant need to be busy doing. And because of these, I often avoid prayer for all I'm worth. And I become worth-less as a result.

Entering into quiet is frightening. Turning off all electronic forms of distraction leaves our souls feeling not only alone, but naked--exposed. And it is for this very reason that periods of silence are important to us. We need to see what is exposed. Is it loneliness? Is it fear? Is it anger? Is it resentment? Is it lust? What surfaces when you get quiet?

A Racing Mind
I don't like failure. And when I pray and my mind leaves the prayer behind and focuses on something else, it maddens me. It humiliates me. This causes me to believe that I simply am "not cut-out" to pray. That it is a gift that others can enjoy, rather than a skill that must be honed.

I'm learning to sit with my busy brain. When it wonders away, I pull it back to my prayer. And yes, I do this over and over and over again. I want to find my heart (what the Eastern Church calls the "nous"). And the longer I practice this corralling of my busy mind, the more I tame my soul.

That Incessant Need to Be Busy
I never have my "to do list" finished. I rarely get close. There are always more meetings to schedule and hold, more people to go and encourage and more studying to do for future teaching, etc. And so it is extremely difficult for me to still myself for the purpose of prayer. It is hard to stop and be present with God.

Prayer is a decision to step away from busy-ness. And while it is not practiced for the purpose of making us more effective in our work, it will do just that. When we sacrifice our busy-ness and choose prayer, we sharpen our soul which I will define here as our mind (our ability to think), our will (ability to make choices), and our emotions (our ability to feel).

I am discovering that the use of prayer tools can be helpful. I will write about them next time. Peace to you as you seek to honor the Lord of Holy Week.


Zee said...

love the post because it feels so close to my own thoughts...

entering into quiet has become easier for me lately, but the problem of the racing mind... ouch. sometimes i wish God would invent like a "turn-off" switch for our brains... i agree that it does madden when the mind is wandering away when you try to concentrate... those are the times when i remind myself of Brother Lawrence's advice... not to spend too much time flogging myself for wandering, but to take myself back to prayer.

and another quote that i was reminded of when i read yours about "don't just sit there, do something"... (yes, i am a quote junkie)

"the problem nowadays is that when we need to DO something, we pray; and when we need to PRAY, we do something."

Mark said...

So true, yet we may draw away for a time or two and then come right back to the crazy busy life we all lead. Praying we can find more of the time we need to pray, sit in silence and listen or just "Be" with Him.

david said...

Mark, that is my prayer too. That, even in my human-ness, I can learn to remain silent, even in the noise. I want a mind stayed on Truth.
Zee, where is that last quote from? Do you know its source?

david said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chisato said...

I love Zee's quote, and would also like to know who said it!
It is so hard to clear the mind. I remember in my earlier attempts to meditate that I was told to just concentrate on my breaths going in and out and even that is so hard to do. Maybe that is where your prayer tools are going to come in?

david said...

Yes, Chisato, I plan to write about tools for the racing mind. We will see if they help. In fact, just last week I questioned a Christian that has been practicing meditation for more than two decades. I'll try and find time this weekend to share some of this stuff. Either way, I'm no expert.
Finally, sorry everyone about the comment of my own I deleted. I accidently put my first comment up twice, so I erased the second.

zee said...

David & Chisato: i heard the quote from my mom... and i am not sure where she got it... sorry.