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A Place to Pray

by Dina Sleiman

"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” ~ Matthew 6:6

For several posts I’ve been sharing my thoughts on tapping into the spiritual realm and truly communicating with God. And while this requires honing our spiritual senses, the physical environment around us can either contribute to or diminish our prayer process. As we see above, Jesus recommended we go into a small, quiet room and pray.

In his book Mystically Wired, Pastor Ken Wilson asserts that many Christians fail in their prayer and devotional lives because they make it too hard on themselves. They make unrealistic demands and set themselves up for failure. God intended for us to enjoy prayer. It is meant to be a relaxing and refreshing time in His marvelous presence. I’ve mentioned some techniques that might help enrich your prayer time including listening to God, imagining meeting with God, and ruminating on specific words from scripture. But today let’s spend some time considering where we pray.

We should prepare for prayer the same way we might prepare for a date with our spouse, making it a special time to meet with the lover of our souls. Choose a place that is quiet and comforting. A place that will bring you joy. A place that is special to you. That way when you go to this place, your body will immediately respond with positive associations. As you have wonderful prayer times in this place, those associations will continue to grow. It doesn’t always have to be the same exact place. I have three places in my house where I like to pray. Find what works best for you.

Next, think about your posture. What helps you enter into prayer and focus on God? Kneeling, laying prostrate on the floor, sitting with your hands folded? For me it’s usually sitting cross-legged or with my knees tucked to my chest in an overstuffed chair or on a plush carpet. It could be lying in bed…or showering…or driving in your car. There’s never a “bad” place or way to talk to God and petition him. However, some environments and positions help us to better enter his presence and hear from him in return.

When you first begin to pray, consider taking some slow deep breaths to relax yourself and enjoy the moment. Imagine breathing in the presence of God and breathing out all the stress of your day.

Here are some other tools that might contribute to your prayer experience.

1)      Art work: Anything beautiful that lifts the soul, photos of nature, religious artwork, even a relaxing screensaver
2)      Water: a trickling fountain or sounds of the ocean or rain
3)       Fire: candles, a fireplace, a campfire, or a virtual fire
4)      Scent: incense or a relaxing aroma like lavender or vanilla
5)      Bible: a special Bible with personal significance in a translation you love
6)      Devotional Books: prayers, scripture collections, poems, writings in God’s voice
7)      Journal: for recording what God speaks to you and your own poems and prayers
8)      Music: classical music, instrumental music, especially worship music

I keep this website book marked because it streams beautiful “soaking” worship music all day long. http://www.soaking.net/

Give thought to what blesses you during your prayer time and keep those items handy in one place. It won’t be all of the prayer aids I mentioned. Certainly not all at the same time. I once experimented with lighting a scented candle, running a fountain, and playing worship music all at the same time. By the time I was done I had entered sensory overload and was completely distracted. But I have been blessed by all of these items individually during my prayer sessions.

This post would not be complete without mentioning the place I spend most of my personal prayer time—what Ken Wilson calls the “outdoor cathedral.” Like many others, I feel closest to God in nature with no ceiling over my head. I love to listen to the birdsong, the rustle of the breeze. To watch scampering squirrels, waddling ducks, and soaring hawks. Even little ants busy at work. There I can see, feel, hear, taste, and smell God all around me. I do much of my praying in conjunction with walking and biking. And can you guess my favorite prayer place of all? Along the beach, of course :)

This post should allow for some good discussion. How do you enjoy praying? Where do you pray? Do you use any aids in prayer? Might any of these suggestions enrich your prayer life? Do you have any suggestions for us today?

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 Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Comments

  1. "God intended for us to enjoy prayer." What a simple and powerful reminder!

    I've been through all kind of 'classes' on prayer--one suggested dividing an hour into 12 segments, each focused on a different type of prayer. While some may find that helpful, formats like that always seems to turn prayer into a painful task, and not a pleasant conversation.

    I have a houseful of family packing up to head home today. Now I know as soon as they're gone, I'm going to make another cup of coffee, and head out to my lawn chair. Draped under mature maple trees, I find the rustling leaves as pleasant as the sounds of surf.

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  2. I enjoy my prayer most when I'm outside. My only aids are the natural sounds and solitude of the prairie.

    I'm not outside that much from Nov to March, but even with the cold wind biting my cheeks, I'm so aware of His presence and that's when praise spurts from my mouth. When I'm inside, my prayers seem to centre more on what I need.

    Thanks for the post, I also like the quote about enjoying prayer.

    Anita Mae.

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  3. Thanks, Barb. You made me smile. One of my three places at home that I pray is in my back yard on a cushioned porch swing. In fact, when the last one died, I had to go buy a new one ASAP.

    God is a loving father. Can you imagine if your children only talked to you out of a sense of compulsion or duty? Yuck! He wants mutual enjoyment during that lovely relational time.

    In two weeks when I do my next post it will be about "A Time to Pray." My take on that is very different than the class you took, and again it is focused on allowing us to enjoy and treasure our prayer time. And remember prayer does not require a nonstop stream of words. It's great just to listen and relax.

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  4. Well, Anita, you might enjoy making a special little prayer area in your home where you bring a little bit of nature indoors through plants, art, and some sort of nature sounds.

    In Virginia sometimes it gets too hot to really enjoy the outdoors. I was riding my bike and praying a few weeks ago and thought to myself, "Someone needs to fix the air conditioning in my outdoor cathedral." LOL.

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  5. I must be easily distracted, because it's difficult for me to pray outside. Excessive natural stimuli, I suppose.
    I like to pray while driving. It keeps my natural mind occupied and it's a safe place to be loud or quiet.
    I agree, prayer IS to be enjoyed! And it should be two-way communication, original, personal, and fresh! No Stepford Wife praying, here!

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  6. Most of my prayer time is spent as a stream of conciousness conversation with God that just pops up throughout the day. I have a really hard time sitting in one place and praying for long stretches of time. I hate to admit it, but when I try, I often fall asleep. When I get to heaven, God's probably going to look at me and say, "Oh yes. You're my sleepy daughter."

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  7. I pray in the car a lot, Niki. And it's nice to crank up the worship music. I was thinking that even if someone took public transportation they could always put in earphones and close their eyes to pray.

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  8. I call that praying without ceasing, Jen. And really, I think that's the ultimate goal. To just live in the awareness of God's presence and commune with him throughout the day. But I also think it's good to have a special time set aside too, almost like a date with a spouse. Maybe you could try some more active form of prayer like incorporating singing, dancing, journaling, or painting. Not that there's anything wrong with falling asleep. I'm sure that's another way of enjoy his peaceful presence.

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  9. Oh, Jennifer, that's me, too!

    I talk to God most of the day and I pray before my Bible reading at night, but if I stay still and pray/meditate/listen for very long, I'll fall asleep.

    Even if I'm not trying to pray, I'm one of those people who fall asleep if I get still.

    :::blush:::

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  10. DeAnna, the "soaking prayer" that goes along with the music I linked to says that sleeping is allowed :) Which brings to mind a whole different topic, which is dreams. I wonder if we fall asleep praying if we are more likely to have spiritual dreams? That would be cool.

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  11. Anyone out there tried praying while walking, biking, or jogging?

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  12. Me too, Jen! Therese of Lisieux had a nice quote about falling asleep during prayer. Basically that parents love their children when they're sleeping, so she knew God loved her when she fell asleep praying, too.

    I like the quote about prayer. Good tools, too. I sometimes keep a piece a paper handy aside from a journal, so I can write down things that pop into my head and distract me. Sometimes when I pray, I'm thinking about who is picking up the kids or what I forgot at the grocery store. Rather than berate myself for my lack of focus, I just jot it down and get back to praying.

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  13. Dina, I'm enjoying the music. I have it playing in the background while I work! I have done prayer walks, prayer while driving and, off and on, have had special chairs at home for prayer. I also feel close to God in nature.

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  14. See, ladies, Susanne and Therese the saint agree, sleeping is fine :)

    Great idea about jotting down distractions, Susanne. And who knows, maybe their not distractions at all. Maybe God is helping you plan your day.

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  15. Sounds like we have a lot in common, Elaine.

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  16. I've been thinking about this all day. I do a lot of praying in the car. Lately I've been doing a lot of praying everywhere I go!

    I'm enjoying the series, Dina. I'm going to look them all over again before your next one.

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  17. Happy to hear the Inkies have been getting in that good prayer time. And I'm glad you're enjoying the series, Deb.

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  18. Hey, Dina. I love your entire prayer series. It's no secret that your favorite prayer place and mine are the same. And yes, I pray during my walks - I haven't been able to walk for a while, and I miss it terribly.

    I usually have a running prayer with God all through the day, too. And my walking and praying at the beach would be considered my special prayer times, I think.

    Interestingly, during a few rare moments of intense grief, I have found myself on my knees with no real sense of how I ended up there. I wonder, if it is some innate piece of human nature? It's only happened to me a few times, like I said during intense grief. And I can't normally get on my knees (and can't really bend one knee to any degree) because of the metal in my leg, but God physically sustained me throughout the prayer time and I came away with such overwhelming comfort (and no pain in my knee).

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  19. That's cool about praying on your knees, Suzie. I sometimes bow on my knees during worship at church, but they usually hurt before long, and I situate myself with my rear on the floor beside my knees.

    Yes, walking and praying on the beach is the best. When I'm really in a funk and needing a special time with God that's where I head. Some of my best dates with my husband have been at the beach too.

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  20. Dina, I meant to ask you, what translation did you use for the scripture? I love the wording. And I can't wait to listen to the website you mentioned.

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  21. It's The Message. I've actually studied that translation, and it's really cool because it's translated straight from the Greek and Hebrew unlike most modern translations that come from the King James. I read the whole story about how and why Eugene Peterson translated it and was very impressed. Plus, he just has such a lovely poetic way of phrasing things.

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    ReplyDelete

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