Friday, 6 November 2015

Prayer: Slowing Down

Prayer is oxygen for the soul. Just as the body needs to breathe, so we need to allow our souls to draw in deeply the love that is the very source of our existence.

Often, we bring to prayer the hectic pace that can pervade our days. And then we can wonder why there was no awareness of the Lord’s presence. Many blessings of consolation and guidance and encouragement are not received because the vessel of our heart is already filled, busy about many things.

So, rather than rushing into prayer, it is good to change pace and prepare our hearts. We slow down, find some solitude, move into silence, and still the mind and heart. ‘When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen’ (Matthew 6:6). We consciously enter into our inner sanctuary.

A sacred space can greatly help. For some of us, it may be a corner of a room with a comfortable chair and a crucifix and Bible on a table, for others it may be a quiet spot at the back of a church we pass daily on the way to work.

There is a power in simple rituals to help us centre the heart and mind. Some of us may light a candle before an icon or cross. Others of us may bless ourselves slowly and prayerfully, invoking the Spirit to lead us in prayer.

We bring our bodies to prayer. If we notice that we are carrying tension in our bodies, we can sit straight and breathe in slowly and gently, holding our breath briefly before exhaling. Doing this several times can help ease stress and calm the body. All of this is both a preparation for prayer and a prayer itself.

The image of our heart as an open vessel, ready to receive, has been used to describe the interior disposition that most blesses us in prayer. We take time to prepare our heart so that we come before the Lord receptive and docile to his grace.

A powerful prayer of trust that gives the Lord freedom in our prayer might be: ‘Jesus, all that you want to give me, I long to receive. All that you long to do in me, with all my heart I want it to happen.’