Texts and emails by the dozen have urged me to prayer recently; a good thing, right? Mostly, though, they are asking me to go to God with a single agenda, to press Him, as if I were lobbying a powerful Friend to act. Prayer is petitioning. We should ask God about our needs. However, true prayer must include time to listen, contemplative prayer, which can be incredibly difficult for those of us accustomed to living with smartphones and email; that provide those instant responses. Talking with God is not at all like messaging with a friend!
There is a kind of praying that is called ‘centering.’ Christ Jesus is made the focus. It is not a time for petitions or beautiful praise. It is an act of adoration, a time to receive a gift of His peace. It’s like those moments when you see someone you love and you reach out in embrace, holding each other close, wordlessly, just being together. Right now in our crazy, mixed up, stressed out world – we must make time to find rest, to learn to be with Jesus. I want to encourage to change your mental image of prayer to include times when you are content in His Presence, centered in faith, waiting.
Quietly murmur this confession. Learn how to listen!
“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Psalm 46:9-11, NIV)
There is amazing spiritual strength to be found in surrendering to the Spirit and entering into silent prayer that WAITS on the Lord. Paul urges us to dismantle “every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and (to) take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV) In the story of Job, when his suffering drives him to angrily demand a confrontation with the Lord, God comes, not with explanations, but to reveal Himself in greater majesty. Job’s response is humility. He says, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40:4, NIV)
Centering prayer does not seek to change God’s mind. It restores Him to His rightful place in my life. When I am actively, yet silently, waiting before Him, the Spirit helps me to re-enthrone Christ Jesus as Lord of life, my hope. I return often to the words of Isaiah inviting us to holy submission. In a time of national crisis the Lord called His people to re-center their hope on Him! “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, NIV) In true prayer, we are intent on finding Him. We set aside the need to press Him to endorse a solution of our own design.
Waiting can be much more difficult than working!
The angst of our time is real. The world, in the words of the hymn, is filled with devils who “threaten to undo us.” But, we do not “In our own strength confide” for “our striving would be losing.” Now, there is a choice about how to live. We can attempt to control it all and find ourselves full of frustration. Or, we can enter into His Presence – centered on Christ! The Spirit is inviting us to a new and deeper spirituality, beyond the comfort of our religion.
Engage your whole person in this kind of praying.
Place your hands open, palms up, in front of you.
Draw your breath in slowly. Pause, then then breath out as you say the name of Jesus.
Tell Him simply, “I receive your peace.”
For most of us such praying, entering into His Presence is so unnatural that we will feel foolish, or nothing at all – at first. But, He is there. It is likely that your mind will initially reject this ‘quiet’ and you will want to reach for your phone, turn on some music, just ‘do something.’ Choose Jesus! It’s simple, but it is not easy! Keep handing yourself to Him, giving the Spirit mastery as you meditate on His Word and Promise.
Here’s the word from the Word.
“O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. …
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:2-6, NIV)
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
The Lord of hosts His name, from age to age the same
And He must win the battle
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him
That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever