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.