Techniques for prayer and spirit-life
The greatest determinant of the best spiritual life as a Christian – the power, love and wisdom that we are looking for – is prayer. While there may be needed breakthroughs and encounters with his presence, in the long run, there is no substitute for spending time with God.
That quality time can be called prayer.
More prayer – more power, love and wisdom of God in your life. It is true that your whole life should be in constant contact with Holy Spirit (what Brother Lawrence would advocate as a silent secret constant conversation). However, it was clearly practiced by Jesus and the Apostles to spend designed times with God – either alone or in groups. And I have found that the more time I set apart for prayer, the more prayerfully I live throughout the rest of the day.
The trouble with prayer is that it can get boring, its is hard work, and when life gets busy its hard to see its value when it doesn’t feel like you’re getting through. In a word, I suggest that variety is the way to get more prayer into your life. Variety in position, and variety in type.
The position is very significant to prayer. Your body is part of who you are and expresses what you are saying. (Yes, God picks up on body language.) Let’s start with sitting upright in a respectful position, which is the most common for which there can be several types. This is the appropriate position to bring your petitions and intercessions, which is the business type of prayer. You might start with intercession for others as this taps in your love and attracts God. Then, when he’s in a good mood, you can present your own petition.
Don’t make it harder than needed. If you tend to take on a lot of others’ requests, I suggest you just let whatever names come to mind, or read a list of names, and put a one-word request. If it’s for big situations, then just speak from your knowledge that’s got to the point quickly. For your own list, keep it just as brief. God knows what’s going on. You just need to say enough to know that He knows you know you’ve made your point.
This style is also appropriate for prayerfully reading the scriptures. You can get books on how to do that, but much can be done by simply choosing appropriate portions that speak about your concerns – which I often see in Paul’s prayers – or also the book of Psalms which is not just the church’s songbook, but prayer book. Read it in the first person, and change the words as needed to suit your personal situation. God loves it when you’re true and real.
The other type of sitting is relaxed or “soaking” style, in a comfy chair, perhaps with your feet up. This expresses a friendly disposition as do with a good friend, and so where you might play some prayerful worship music or listen to the scripture being read. While that is happening, you are inwardly agreeing with what you hear, and adapt it to your concerns or aspirations. This type is my choice for at the end of the day’s work, before or after dinner – for obvious reasons.
It’s also a good position for reading out what I call ‘crafted prayers’ – which are choice prayers you can find in the liturgy of the ancient Christian churches. But you can also find these in special collections – as I did in the Oxford Book of Prayer. I was so excited when I got that book that I sent copies to everyone in my immediate family. To this day I keep a card collection of my favorites from that book that includes short prayers of a variety of saints over the centuries from all around the world. So cool and inspirational.
Another prayer position is standing. This shows you are ready for action, a waiter or soldier who is devoted to serving your master. Add to that raised arms, and its time to just declare God’s goodness and the timeless truths of who you are in Him. Its pure adoration. I like to do this first thing in the morning as it makes me centered in the most important truth of one’s relationship with God. Yes, I might feel like sitting down with a cup of coffee, but soon I’m sensing His pleasure. It’s the same as starting a church service with worship; here we enter into God’s presence with praise.
Another position is active solo cardio: running, cycling, Stillwater kayaking or swimming. That’s what I do, anyway. This is where you don’t have any intention to pray, but you’ve got a heart to allow God to speak to you in a random conversation. On the other end of the activity, spectrum is just lying on your bed or the couch. Let the thoughts flow. Even better, go to sleep and pray in your dreams.
Somewhat similar to this is lying facedown on the ground (or carpet, for us Westerners). What does this position say? Much contrast to lying on your back. This is where you are at the end of your rope, you feel totally unworthy or are suffering horribly. You getting as low as possible and in your heart, you are pouring out your grief. Add to that dust and ashes and you’re communicating clearly.
Finally, get on your knees once a day. Here you can humble yourself and yet be calm and peaceful before your gracious Father. I personally like to confess whatever sins that come to mind and request help to do better the next day. Otherwise, let go of any agenda. Don’t bring your accomplishments or requests. Or your angst or any of your stuff. Its about gazing into his eyes. Know He loves you.