So the past couple of days I introduced the concept of silent prayer. Sometimes this is called mental prayer, sometimes it is contemplative prayer. Today, this very day, it is time to give this a try. So here’s what I suggest you do.
First, today is the day. Don’t put it off. Be sure to do this today. One thing that I know is that sometimes I find it easier to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” But then tomorrow never comes. Also, as we get started today, be sure to remember this. If a day goes by and you do not spend some silent time for whatever reason, you don’t spend time in prayer with Jesus, don’t worry. Just pick it back up again the next day. This is not an all or nothing exercise. Rather, it is a constant focus to get to know Jesus a little bit better.
Father Mike Schmitz of Ascension quotes a priest friend of his who says the hardest day to start back up reading the bible is not the day after we miss the day reading the bible, but the day after the day we miss. We get discouraged and we think there can be no point in continuing. Be sure to pray for the grace to pray. You know, you are getting ready for an encounter with Jesus. That is really what we are talking about here. And so, set your mind, set your heart to get ready for this encounter, to place yourself in the presence of Jesus. To open your heart and to ask Jesus to pour out his grace upon you so that you can become closer to him and you can enjoy this phenomenal and wonderful, wonderful experience that Jesus wants to give you. Moreover, we need to remember that what Jesus wants to show us just how much that he loves us. Jesus loves you. You know, I don’t know about you, but I get discouraged sometimes, I think I didn’t do this, oh, I committed this sin again, why did I do that and I begin to think that Jesus just can’t really love me. But that’s not true. Even when we sin, he still loves us. He doesn’t love the sin, but he loves us, and he pours out that grace so that we can be closer to him, so that we can start over with him. Sometimes people feel it is the case that Jesus keeps a score card. You know, good deeds, bad deeds and so forth. But I do not believe that is the case. Rather, I believe that Jesus simply pours out grace to each of us and to us at each moment to accept his loving relationship. Jesus wants a loving relationship with us. He wants a loving relationship with you. He wants a loving relationship with me. That is something that is so important to remember.
So, remember what we said about technique. By the way, I didn’t mention this yesterday, or when we did the recording, that it might be helpful to start with a timer. It may be helpful at the start to set a timer. I find it helpful, (especially at first) that it helps me to remain more focused on the prayer and not how much time has gone by, how much time is left, etc. Remember I said that five minute prayer can feel like five hours. Just having that timer there so that you don’t have to focus, so that you can focus on just putting your heart in this prayer fully. I find it helps me to be focused on this prayer. Then, sit upright in a chair or on the floor. Keep your back straight, but not rigid. We need to be relaxed, we do not want our spine to be a steel rod. The spine bends a little bit. If it is more comfortable to sit on the floor, you can also use a cushion to make things more comfortable. Start by focusing on your breathing. You know it is interesting that the word breath is really what underlies the Holy Spirit. So, I like to think as I am focusing on my breathing I am really focusing on the movement of the Holy Spirit in my prayer and in my life. Breathe slowly and comfortably. Try to let the distractions go away, but if you are distracted, do not be frustrated. Just acknowledge the distraction and focus again on your breathing. The purpose of focusing on breathing is really two-fold. One, I mentioned you know there are all kinds of great benefits to it, not the least of which is it helps us to relax, is slows our heart rate, does some really great things. But the other thing is it gives us something to focus on so that we can be more ready to have this encounter with Jesus. That is really the focus. I cannot stress this enough. We’re really trying to have a stronger relationship with Jesus and to have this real depth of prayer with Jesus. So, do remember that. That’s what we said. Strengthening our relationship with Jesus, that is the purpose and goal.
Remember we said this was about strengthening your relationship with Jesus. And so I would further suggest that as you focus more on your breathing, add a phrase (sometimes called a mantra) to your prayer. It is a short phrase that you repeat over and over again. Since we are trying to become closer to Jesus, maybe begin be simply saying his name over and over again. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Remember the name of Jesus saves. That is in fact what the name means. God saves. And there is power in the name of Jesus. And so by slowly saying this name over and over in the beginning, you are really placing yourself in a situation and circumstance where you can then be come ready to encounter Jesus. Some by the way when they pick a word find it helpful to say the word in rhythm with our breathing, which is a good way to do it as well.
That is it for today. Good luck. And join us tomorrow. Set that timer, five minutes of silent prayer and say the name of Jesus slowly. Pray that Jesus will come into your heart and you will get to know him better.