Monday, February 1, 2010

Prayer disciplines part 2-Centering Prayers

Hey gang!

If you didn’t watch the video of Steven Curtis Chapman’s Busy Man above, I’ll ask you the question. Have you found yourself just “too busy”? If you’re a teen, having too much homework, too many social activities and or games to go to? Adults, shuttling kids to school, grabbing groceries, picking up kids, just to shuttle them to activities, trying to fit dinner and then housecleaning in? All that makes you want to just…fall in bed.

I know that having a 4, 3 and almost 2 year old that my busy schedule is about to pick up. I’m already doing pre-school with the older two, then figuring out what to make for lunch. Before long, my daughters will be dancing and my son will be playing basketball or baseball. Trying to catch it all and have time to write my columns, hang out with my wife occasionally and watch TV. And then on top of all that, trying to find time to pray, read God’s Word and spend time learning what God wants me to share with you. Wow! Just typing all this makes me want to take a nap.

I remember my classmate, Mark Taylor, sharing a poem with us at our graduation. I couldn’t remember the poem exactly, but I found what I believe is a shorter version of the one he shared.

No Time To Pray
By Grace Naessens

I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish, I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me and grew heavier with each task;
Why doesn’t God just help me, I wondered; He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on, gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn’t show me- He said, “But you didn’t seek.”

I tried to come into God’s presence; I used all my keys at the lock;
God gently and lovingly chided, “My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.

Today, I want to share the next prayer discipline, centering prayer. This prayer isn’t about asking for all our wants and needs. It is about taking the time to slow down and spend time with God for who He is.

I think back to when my wife Mindy and I started dating. We spent so much time together. We didn’t care what we talked about. It was just being with each other that made the time special. That’s what God wants from us sometimes. For us to come to Him and think, I don’t want to come to the Genie God, I just want to spend time with a Savior that loves me and that I can love back.

If you’ve been a Christian for a long time? Let me ask you, do you remember when you first came to Christ? When you are first saved, you try to convert everyone. Why? You want everyone else to have what you do. Why is it that somewhere along the way, we lose that feeling of wanting to be with God? I think we begin to take for granted that He’s always there whether we acknowledge it or not.

That is the other reason why practicing the centering prayer is so important. A centering prayer is defined as a form of contemplative prayer where the person praying seeks to quiet scattered thoughts and desires in the still center of Christ’s presence. Let’s look at a method of centering prayer as presented in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.

First, we need to set aside a time (Calhoun suggests 15 minutes to begin). Next, we need to settle into a comfortable position. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God.

Then, Calhoun tells us to select a simple word or phrase from Scripture that expresses your desire for God. She gives examples of love, peace, grace, Jesus, great Shepherd. Let this word guard your attention. Let me mention here that this is not a practice of New Age. Centering prayer has been around from the beginning, not just something developed by the Benedictine Monks of the 60’s and 70’s. There are skeptics that will argue that this practice of repeating and focusing on a phrase doesn’t produce anything but the repetition. Keep in mind, this phrase is only a beginning point and a tool to use to refocus if you begin to drift during the time in God’s presence.

During this time, become quiet. You will probably have many thoughts rushing through your head at first simply because you are thinking about a time limit and getting back to your day. However, you must remain quiet and let these thoughts go. Keep repeating the phrase from above until they do. Calhoun says, “Be with Jesus. Listen. Be Still.”

Rest in the center of God’s love. Remember this isn’t a time of prayer for requests or laundry lists. Trust the Holy Spirit who abides in you to connect you to God to listen. Finally, don’t rush out of this prayer time. Breathe in the presence of Christ. Calhoun even suggest closing this prayer time offering yourself to Christ for the rest of your day with phrases such as “I am yours” or “Remain with me.”

These are parts of the practice of centering prayer. Rest in and gaze on Christ. Wait before the Lord in open attentiveness. Attend to the presence of the Holy Spirit within you and release distractions into the hands of God and returning consistently to his presence.

Finally, here are some of the God-given fruits that you can expect to enjoy in this practice.

1. “Keeping company with Jesus, trusting that he is working in you while you pray.” Remember this is time to listen to Jesus, not give requests.
2. “Living in more awareness of your union with Christ.”
3. “Bringing stillness into the busyness of life.”
4. “Learning to listen to God.”
5. “Seeking God’s presence and assistance in all things.”
6. “Learning to hold Scripture in your heart.”
7. “Resting in God’s will rather than your own agenda.”
8. “Developing a quiet center within that is not attached to outcomes.”

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at contemplative prayer.

I love you guys!

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