A few days ago I posted several very practical ideas for improving our prayer lives. Then I published an essay covering some of the stresses of being a missionary in small-town Tanzania. Today I want to combine these ideas of prayer and stress by offering you a form of meditative prayer which will (likely) bless you greatly.
I can’t remember from whom I learned this practice, but he called it “centering down.” And I was told it was a Quaker form of prayer. I’ve done a little research since then, and it seems the idea of centering down is much bigger than this one very particular prayer practice. Centering down (as best as I can tell) is the practice of contemplative prayer which allows one to experience God’s presence deep within himself. It seems to reach well beyond thinking about God and encourages us to be one with God and to delight in his presence.
There must exist hundreds of ways to accomplish this. The method I’m offering today is only one of these. I’m not suggesting you replace your regular prayer time with this practice, but I do believe it is a wonderful discipline which will bless your life. Though I now realize “centering down” is a much broader concept, I’ll still refer to this form of meditative prayer as just that. [I’ve also heard it called “re-collection prayer.”]
- Find a comfortable seat. Don’t lean forward, though neither should you slouch as if attempting to sleep. I like to sit in a hardwood chair or even on a stool. I’m sure many sit cross-legged on the floor; I do not know, however, if they make an “O” with their thumb and index finger. I also don’t know if they refer to their sitting as “criss cross apple sauce.” But I really hope they do.
- Close your eyes.
- Place your hands face-down on your lap. This represents letting go of all that has filled your mind.
- In silence, give to God all your anxieties, concerns, and worries. Surrender to him all those thoughts which occupy your mind. I begin by thinking this phrase: “Lord I give to you….”
- Now, maintaining this same posture, rotate your hands so that your palms are face-up. This is symbolic for receiving blessings and peace from God.
- In silence, ask God to grant you peace. You may ask for any number of blessings (such as strength, courage, faith, patience, etc). I begin by saying: “Lord, please fill me with your…”
- Sit in silence for some time, focused on God — and simply resting in his presence.*
This form of prayer has helped me immensely over the past few years. One of the greatest benefits (for me) is that it helps me rid my mind of stray thoughts and concerns — so that I can practice being present with God. Fully present with him.
I can imagine, too, that centering down would be of tremendous value to those who tend to be anxious or worried.
I can’t help but think of these two passages. I’ll leave you with them:
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7
“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:7
*If you read this post and worry that centering prayer will take you too long, you most likely are wrong. I’ve been amazed at the impact less than five minutes of this centering down exercise can have on an entire day.
P.S. — The irony is not lost on me that the image accompanying this post is of clenched fists during prayer — which could symbolize either 1) an unwillingness to give to God our concerns or 2) a refusal to accept from him his blessings. But it does make me wonder why our traditional posture of prayer involves clenched (or at least folded) hands.
I was reading this morning, and the first words of Colossians 4:2 stood out to me:
“Devote yourselves to prayer…”
προσκαρτερεω (proskartereo) =
to be devoted or constant; to be steadfastly attentive to
I looked up a few other passages where this word (devote / proskartereo) appears in the New Testament:
- Acts 1:14 – Believers, with one mind, were continually devoting themselves to prayer.
- Acts 2:42 – Believers devoted themselves to several things, among them prayer.
- Acts 6:4 – Apostles appointed deacons so they could devote themselves to prayer and ministry.
- Romans 12:12 – Devotion to prayer listed as a key element in church unity and function.
Early every morning I pray alone — usually over a list I keep. Then Christie, Baylor, and I pray together after reading scripture at breakfast. Every run I go on involves at least a little bit of prayer time, and sometimes a lot. Also, Christie and I pray together every night before bed. I can certainly say I’m “devoted” to these four prayer practices. But I’m not sure I can say that I’m devoted to prayer. I want to be. And perhaps I’m on my way there…
Committed to a Game
But I’m forced to think about things to which I’ve been truly devoted in my life. When I coached high school soccer, I spent:
- 12 hours a week practicing with the team
- 5-10 hours a week taking care of the logistics of practices, scheduling, and travel
- 5-10 hours a week coaching in, and traveling to, actual games and tournaments
- 2-4 hours a week scouting other teams
- 2 hours a week painting and caring for the field
That’s over 30 hours a week I spent on soccer (in addition to a full-time job). A game. I was truly devoted to a game. And it paid off. Our team was very successful. But I was devoted to a game.
So if prayer truly is powerful — and if New Testament authors were right to encourage us to be devoted to it — I can only imagine what would result from a deepened level of commitment to prayer in my own life. Or in our families and churches.
Consider how devoted you are to:
- your job
- your children
- your blog
- church attendance
- other churchy opportunities* and activities
- college football teams
I wonder if we even committed to a “least common denominator” approach to prayer — devoting to prayer only the amount of time equal to what we spend on the least frequent of the above activities — what would happen?
I want to challenge you to pray more. I’m not suggesting that you start by attempting to pray for an hour a day. But pray more. I’m convinced we begin to devote ourselves to particular activities by increasingly devoting small increments of time to those activities.
Tomorrow I’m going to post some practical ideas on how we can begin to devote ourselves further to prayer. And I’m not just thinking through these as an exercise for others. I desperately want to learn to pray without ceasing; and I could use your help in getting me there. If you’ve got some practical ideas, feel free to post them below. [I’m not compiling my list until late tonight or early tomorrow morning.]
* Just a little shout out to Nacho.
Filed under prayer, sports