I was reading last night, in David Benner’s book Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer, about the importance of attention in our prayer lives if we are to experience communion with God instead of merely a one-sided communication. He writes:
…the kind of attention that is essential if we are to open ourselves to God is quite different from this effortful focusing of our thoughts and constriction of our imagination…Prayerful paying attention is not scrunching up our willpower and tightening our focus, but simply opening our self to what we encounter.
So, what does this LOOK like? you might be thinking. Don’t you fret. I’m going to give you a few examples from my own imperfect experience.
What follows are snapshots, literally, of the ways I am attempting to notice what God is doing in my life and respond to them. They look a little like this:
Lectio Divina is the practice of reflecting on scripture in a prayerful and attentive manner, allowing God to speak to you personally through the text. While you can do this on your own (and there are several resources to help you do so, several of which I will list on Friday), I like the Solo devotional from The Message:Remix because it walks you through the process each day. You don’t have to think about what’s next—you just follow along as they guide you through the process in a creative and experiential way that is reflective of the text and unique to each day.
I like this practice because it takes the reading of the Word to a deeper, even more personal level, and it helps us to really PAY ATTENTION to what God may be saying to us personally in our daily reading.
Praying in Color
While I don’t do this exercise as often as I’d like, it is one of the forms of prayer I most enjoy and am seeking to incorporate more into my daily time with the Lord this year. While there are helpful guides and formats you can follow if getting this creative totally wigs you out, I find that what works best for me is simply responding to something I’ve read or to a concern that is weighing heavily on my heart.
As I am doodling and coloring (note I do not even dare to call what I do drawing), I am meditating on and praying about whatever it is that I’ve felt led to put on paper that day. As you can see above, sometimes that is a prayer concern for someone (in this case, my daughter in two of the images above), a reflection on something I’ve read (such as the map), or something that is weighing on me personally (as in the last image). As the image progresses, the Lord often gives me insight or affirmation about something, and I work that into the image.
This has been a very satisfying form of prayer for me and one I highly recommend, especially if you need to be physically engaged in the prayer process to stay attentive.
Daily Prayer Walk/Prayer Guides
This first image is of a “daily prayer walk” I put together after listening to a teaching by Dan Franz, Pastor of Urban Ministries at Vineyard Columbus, at a staff retreat. It is a practice of praying through particular scriptures God has put on your heart, in a particular order (Listening to the Invitation, Thanksgiving, Scripture Reading, Confession, Petitions and Prayers for Others, and Worship). It is helpful for times when you don’t really feel like you know what to pray, and for developing a healthy routine of dialoguing with God. But it is important to note that without taking the time to meditate on the scriptures and listen for God’s responses, you are only engaging in a monologue and not really communing with the Lord, which is our ultimate goal.
You can see mine, for an example, here: Daily Prayer Walk.
These two images show a practice I began almost seven years ago and would like to use more frequently—praying scripture for my family. I won’t belabor the point here—you can read a teaching I created for my women’s group on the topic here: Praying Scripture for Our Children and see examples of scriptures I pray over my family here: Prayers for Family from Scripture.
The reminder, again, is that this practice only creates communion when we take the time to linger and interact with it, listening for the Lord’s voice as we lift up our families to him.
The examen is a centuries-old practice of prayerfully reviewing our day and making note of the Lord’s presence within it. David Benner explains it as such:
…taking time each day for prayerful attentiveness to how god has been present to us in love and attentiveness to how we have responded to that presence.
The three, simple steps are as follows:
1. Begin by taking a prayerful frame of mind and rest in the presence of the Lord.
2. “Allow your attention to roam over your present day, letting the fragments of your day flow across your consciousness as memories…Trust that the Spirit will bring to many the significant events to which you should attend. As this happens, notice the blessings of the day and give thanks to God for them…Also pay attention to he internal movements of your heart and your response to the people and experiences that were part of your day.”
3. Close by “asking again for the grace to be open, attentive, and responsive to God’s loving presence, thanking God again for this most precious gift.”
The goal, once again, is communion—the awareness of God’s presence.
These are the practices I am trying to weave into my life to create a more meaningful prayer life and a deeper intimacy with the Lord. We will read more on Friday about various ways to develop this communion with the Lord, with the hope that it will lead to experiencing the fullness of God’s love and joy in our here and now!
Lord, we thank you that you are infinitely creative, and that you long to engage us in communion with you in a variety of meaningful and satisfying ways. Draw us each into a rhythm that meets the unique needs of our individual hearts and meet us there, as the God “who is able to do exceedingly more than we can ever ask or imagine.” We long for life-changing communion with you. We long for your intimacy. For your touch. For your voice. For your joy.
We ask you to come and to walk this path with us.