We're a good three weeks into Lent now, and our Wednesdays of Worship (or is it Worship on Wednesdays...regardless) are well underway. Tonight, we began our discussion on prayer. It was the first of four; and, you guessed it: I'm going to post recaps here for your reading "pleasure."
We'll call the discussion series, "Grounds for Prayer." Weekly topics are as follows:
Week 1 - We Must Stop!
Week 2 - If You Can Breathe, You Can Pray
Week 3 - Do Non-Doing.
Week 4 - Chosen Simplicity
Week 1 - We Must Stop!
A former pastor colleague of mine used to challenge the congregation to, instead of giving up things, take on a new spiritual discipline during Lent. I like that a lot, so I end up praying through Psalms usually at this time every year. You're invited to join a group of us on this journey, by the way (www.newkirkpres.com/whats-new.html).
Stop. That's right. You heard me. Stop. Whatever that means to you, do it. You can stop for a long period or short, but just stop what you're doing just for a moment.
Okay, now what? Now, simply pay attention. Pay attention to how you physically feel and how you emotionally feel. Pay attention to your thoughts. In other words, simply watch yourself exist without trying to change anything. Thoughts and emotions are sticky, but don't get stuck. Acknowledge they're sticky. Just observe. It's that simple.
See, before you just stopped, you were probably "on the train," so to speak. By "train," I mean the "train of thought," the "train" of your to-do list, the "train" of your predictable, everyday routine. Sometimes it may be the "train" of our perception and expectation of others. Trains, no matter how cool or unique or what they're toting, move on redundant and predictable courses. To stop means to step off of that train for just a moment.
Stepping off the train can feel scarry. The ultimate way we step off the train is to die, an inevitability for us all. Each moment we stop is a small death of sorts.
The first thing we learn of prayer is that stopping is the most fundamental thing we do when praying. To pray, we must stop. To stop for a moment from time to time on any consistant basis, however, requires vision. We need an overal sense for who we want to be. If prayer is to ever become a real part of our lives, then prayer has to be part of that vision. The irony of prayer is that it shows us a fuller life as we die a small, momentary death--death in life, life in death.
Psalm 46.10 - "Be still and know that I am God."
Mark 1.15 - "The time has come, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the good news!" ("Repent" literally means to go out of one's current mind...or to step off of the 'train.')
Maybe try stopping this week. Play with time. Set a timer for two minutes or one minute or even thirty seconds. Step off the train in those moments, using paragraphs 2-3 above. There's nothing to do, no right or wrong. Just observe. Observe life without you for those few moments, your small death.
Mark 8.35 - "Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it."