BTC – Phase 5 – Lesson 1
About Prayer – Overview
Meditation & Prayer Overview & Commentary . . .By Ann M. Wolf
What is “Prayer”? By definition, “Prayer” is regarded as a “petition” or “request,” (or a “chance” such as in the saying, “I might have a prayer.”) With regard to our spiritual lives, most of us understand that the “act of praying” involves a communication to/with God by which we are requesting help, resources, or wisdom from our Heavenly Father; or perhaps we desire to just give thanks as we speak to Him.
So though most of us view “prayer time” as a chance to “talk to God,” it has also been said that prayer is not just the act of “informing God of what is in our heart” (since He likely already knows,) but a moment when we might quiet ourselves enough to align our hearts and minds to the awesome love and power which God “Is,” often bringing about a sense of peace just by lingering in God’s presence. Many say that even the act of forming the words to pray seems to help with the process of sorting things through, re-establishing priorities or re-discovering a sense of trust and hope regarding a given situation.
Silently or out loud: We can pray through silent communication known only to God; or we can speak our hearts out loud. We can write our thoughts and feelings down in a personal journal; or we can enjoy sharing our prayer time with others.
Open and Honest: Whatever method we choose, what’s really important here, is that we are honest and open before God when we pray. Since God is Spirit and the essence of Pure Love and Light, we have an opportunity with prayer to “come up higher” and closer to that Light; but this will not happen if our prayers are a sort of “performance” before others or if we are mouthing things which may or may not be a sincere representation of what is really in our hearts. So, isn’t it good to know that we can come before God just as we are, and speak honestly as we would to any good friend we trust?
When and where can we pray? Many folks in the Body enjoy setting aside special time each day to sit and commune with God. For instance, some of us prefer to schedule prayer time in the morning as we start our day or in the evening before we retire. This helps us to establish ourselves “in the Spirit,” as we build on our relationship with the Father, day by day.
Of course, prayer is always a part of services held at churches; and for those times when we feel the need for extra support, there are beautiful souls ready to take our phone calls and pray with us through the medium of various ministry “prayer lines.” But, prayer can actually take place anywhere or any time we feel the desire to “connect” with the love of God or to make our requests known to the Father.
Prayer “In passing”: For instance, apart from the many structured or planned ways that we can experience prayer in our lives, there may be other spontaneous opportunities all throughout our day, to lift folks up in prayer as we encounter them and their situations. We might also find that the Holy Ghost (as a leading and guiding element of God) will bring certain people to mind in a given moment; and we can pause right then and there, to lift them up as well.
Strolling through the aisles of grocery stores, navigating through traffic or walking the dog through the neighborhood…we don’t know when we might spot someone who could use a little prayer, even if we will never actually “meet” that person or speak to them directly.
Drive-by prayer: Let’s say… one day while we are out running our errands, we spot a mom struggling to manage her kids at the shopping mall or…here’s a common one…we find ourselves trying to stay out of the way of someone driving too fast.
Rather than rushing to judgment about these people or rather than just reacting or falling into a programmed response in those situations, we do have the option to pray for these folks.
What if we stumble across a couple engaged in an argument? We can always offer up a prayer on their behalf. On other occasions, we might become aware of someone who perhaps does not fit the profile of anything we readily understand; for instance, we might find ourselves in line somewhere, right next to a radically tattooed and pierced teenager who seems to be living in another world. Well, any time we “sense” that someone could use guidance or assistance, or if we believe that we could use a little help managing a situation better ourselves…we can just pray “that all concerned will be led to the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives.” Who knows? It may be that the teenager will be praying for us as we stand there praying for them. Appearances don’t always tell the whole story.
Standing in the Gap: What a great feeling it is to know that as we pray…in a sense, we are working with God to affect positive change, even if it may or may not be given to us to help in other ways. Any given moment can be a “good time” to stand in the gap and intervene for one another, knowing that this seemingly small action represents one more way to express love.
More opportunities for prayer: Now let’s look at some other opportunities for prayer that might come about in less obvious ways, perhaps even in mysterious ways. Have you ever started thinking of a particular person out of the blue and not sensing anything unusual at first, maybe you just carried on with your day; yet, the thought of this person kept returning several times? Could this “phenomenon” represent one of God’s ways of bringing someone to our attention who stands in need of prayer at that very moment?
I could tell you many stories from my own life or from the lives of others… stories from the battle field or stories of survival where prayer was involved. But for today, I will share this example: One morning while in the middle of office work, I felt a strong “inner tap” on my shoulder to stop what I was doing and pray earnestly for a certain woman who I knew was sick with cancer. I had been aware of her illness for many months; but that morning I felt led to pray “that she might be able to release some hurt which she had been carrying in her heart over certain unfulfilled dreams.”
So without allowing my mind to start second guessing this experience…I just prayed for her to know forgiveness, peace, and joy. Later that day I received a phone call and learned that this soul had passed away right at the hour I felt led to pray. I was stunned and shaken with the seriousness of what had just taken place; and I was also amazed at God’s awesome mercy… that He would find “ways” to minister to His children, while including others of us in these tender moments…that we might witness His love in action.
With tears of gratitude, I gave thanks to the Father that I was able to share that moment “In Spirit” with her. I had no idea that things were that imminent and of course, I can’t know for sure, exactly how my prayers may have helped. But I am certain about this…. by all means, we must keep accepting each and every opportunity to pray for others and for ourselves, knowing that these gifts of time and love will somehow work for the good.
Meditation: It has been said, that “prayer is when we speak to God and meditation is when we listen for God to speak to our hearts.” So, in conjunction with actual Prayer, we can also meditate or “listen” and “contemplate” what “input” or inspiration we believe we are receiving.
Another way of saying all of this… is that it is one thing to communicate our feelings, our thanks, and needs to God, and it is another to take time to rest in His Peace and listen for a “leading” or message of inspiration from Him.
Keeping the best… letting go of the rest… So, in addition to praying, meditation can be a lovely opportunity to “get to know” levels of peace which might be harder to access in the middle of our busy lives, since included in being able to meditate comes learning how to relax or practicing being in a more relaxed state.
The Art of Relaxation… One relaxation technique that I have always found helpful, is to focus on the breath as it moves slowly in and out of the Body, relaxing a little more with each exhale. It can be enjoyable and helpful to also have soft music or nature sounds playing in the background. As thoughts and feelings come up, we can in a sense, “keep the best” as we inhale, while “letting go of the rest” with each exhale. Some folks like to write what comes to mind in a journal, while others just rest. A short nap can be delicious and restorative as well. Taking time to relax can help us face the rest of our day with a more calm and peaceful demeanor. Believe it or not, even the “art of relaxation” is a skill which becomes easier over time with practice.
Visualization: Beyond praying “about” something or someone, there are many folks who find it beneficial to spend a few moments “visualizing a positive outcome” to a challenging situation in life. Visualization is routinely practiced by professionals such as athletes or artistic performers; and folks experienced with visualization suggest that any of us can move closer to the fulfillment of our goals by “seeing” ourselves for a few minutes each day, already functioning joyfully in the desired situation.
So, the idea is, that we can project to the future in great detail, and paint the picture of ourselves celebrating with others, what “will be” our victory, our miracle, or accomplishment, even if we do not know for sure how this could all come to pass.
So how does this work? Well, if the word “visualization” makes you nervous…don’t panic… as this phenomenon isn’t “magic” since science has actually been able to measure the effect that our projected thoughts and emotions can have on our environment. Therefore it is no “wonder” that visualization could help induce a preferred outcome. In the very least, visualization has the potential to build confidence within us regarding our future. It also stands to reason that a more relaxed state brought about by prayer, meditation, and visualization, can help us become “open” to receiving solutions or creative ideas that might move us closer to “real-izing” our heart’s desires.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (KJV)
Seeking First The Kingdom of God: However, before embarking on the process of visualization regarding a goal or challenge, it is also wise to seek God and His Spirit as to the appropriateness of the particular aspiration we have in mind. The flesh nature has its “desires” and the New Nature by the Spirit will have other motivations. As we “mind the Spirit” or mature in the Spirit, our desires will mature as well. So as we walk with God, what we might have dreamed about or wanted at one point in our life, can change, which is actually a natural part of the process of growing up spiritually.
“Not my will, but thine, be done.” – Luke 22:42 (KJV)
The Holy Spirit can provide guidance and direction for our lives if we remain open, which in turn can help us join our “will” with God’s. The longer we walk with the Spirit, the more we will naturally desire those things which are in our spiritual “best interest.”
The Prayer Closet: Some people benefit from having a special corner of their home or office dedicated to prayer and meditation. This place can be very simple, such as a comfortable chair facing a view of a garden or tree. This personal area can be decorated with a few items which may have inspirational significance. But wherever you pick for a spot or whatever you place around you in your special “space,” the idea is that when you are there, you can more easily focus your mind and heart on God, to reconnect quickly to a spiritual place of safety and peace. By the way, in addition to selecting beautiful items to place around your “prayer space”…the inclusion of music and Scripture passages (or other inspirational literature) during prayer time can also be soothing to the heart and soul, while helping the meditator to “get into the zone.”
The Ultimate Prayer Closet: The marvelous truth about the concept of a “Prayer Closet” is, that there may or may not be an actual “closet” or “little place” involved; whatever we do on the outside, is to situate us or help us to focus our mind and heart so we might have a deeper experience on the inside of us. In the end, nothing decorative is really required for that. All we need for a Prayer Closet is our love and our faithfulness, from wherever we happen to be when the desire to pray captures us.
When I think of Paul, praising God while standing in filth and human waste as a prisoner in jail, I am reminded that the transformed soul, in becoming One in consciousness with God, is able to commune with the Father always… and under all circumstances….Now that’s…a “Prayer Closet” and a goal for our soul to accomplish, by the Grace of God.
But back to our little chapel, many of us are fortunate indeed, to be able to choose where or how we want to pray or meditate, since many in the world have no “civil” liberties (or any other kind of liberty), which would allow freedom to express love of God. So while we enjoy our prayer time, we can offer up a special word for those who are suffering persecution or who have no safe-haven within which to practice their faith; and we thank God for the blessing of prayer and those special moments of communion with Him.