I’ve been pondering prayer a lot these past few weeks, and I’m certain it’s the same types of questions you struggle with. Am I praying the “right” way. Is there a “right” way? Do I pray often enough? At the right times? Are there more ways I can remind myself to pray?
But of course, I never suffer these unanswered questions. So like the rest of humanity, I Googled it. I didn’t expect to find much, but I stumbled on Richard Rohr and his statements about contemplative prayer.
A “mind blown” moment for me, it reset my previous image of what prayer is. Instead of the old hands together, kneeling, preparing to ask for things, I realized that living life and loving God is the best method of prayer ever. That’s an incredibly easy statement to make and a really hard one to live.
But you can’t jump to the top of the stairs. It starts in baby steps. Here are my methods.
1. Start and end each day in silence.
God speaks in a whisper, there are too many biblical references to count where silence and solitude are necessary conditions for hearing God. I found I often relied on stimulation (podcasts, music, TV) instead of embracing silence and enjoying being alive. So I hold fast with my morning and nightly routines, eschewing all media. Does that mean I don’t rock out in the car on the way to work? Of course not! I love music and I worship to it, but I’m learning the importance of moderation.
2. Practice kenosis
Instead of hitting God with a litany of prayer requests, I try (try) to flip the script. Whenever I enter my house, I stop what I’m doing and offer a prayer, asking God to fill me with his intention. Asking is easy, but really listening and responding to God’s direction can be difficult. Again, Richard Rohr offers a nice litmus test for this. If the words in your heart are full of love, it’s God. If it’s critical, self-shaming, pitying, etc. it’s the ego a.k.a. the enemy. Choose wisely.
3. Let it be.
Using Mother Mary’s best line, “Let it be” covers so many of life’s daily happenings. Instead of assigning a “bad” or “good” to them, I try to let it be and move on. A long line at the grocery store? I try to observe everyone and everything around me, sharing smiles when I can. Toddler tantrum on the walk back from the park? I take it as a sign of intelligence (ha) and proudly stroll back home, cool and calm as a cucumber. Life is easier this way, trust me. The good news is, you’ll get lots of practice. The world isn’t meant for your comfort.
4. Think of yourself less. Way less.
I still struggle with this, I work in Washington, D.C. after all! Selfless service is a key feature of meditation retreats, monastic life, etc. so why shouldn’t we mimic that approach in our daily lives? It could be something as simple as returning a shopping cart for someone else, or letting someone go before you at the post office (in that case, you may be a saint). This feels SO good, and I do it despite the odd looks I sometimes get (see aforementioned D.C. culture).
Nothing groundbreaking here, just some guidelines that help remind me WHY I’m here. We are alive in the moment, here for God’s work. Jesus meets you where you are. He will never love you less, and that’s pretty cool. It’s something to live a big, loud life for. Starting now.