Active Prayer: a powerful little practice

A practice that I was introduced to years ago, that I have been revisiting lately, has been a prayer practice called “Active Prayer,” or another way that I’ve heard it referred to has been called “Breath Prayer.” It’s pretty simple: an active or breath prayer is a 6-12 word prayer that you pray throughout the day (usually inside yourself), and is short enough that you can pray it in the length of a breath. The active prayer is a way that many throughout history have put the following scriptures into practice:

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall always be in my mouth.” – Psalm 34:1

“Pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

A traditional active prayer is what has been called the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner” –  or simplified even more, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.” Whether the Jesus prayer or another prayer that you feel the Lord leads you to pray, the active prayer is a prayer of intention that I’ve experienced has a way of leading to attention (experiencing the Lord’s presence throughout the day), and it is so powerful. Just a simple little phrase can lead to our hearts becoming open and present to God, and experiencing transformation in our lives. It’s like a seed, that though it is so small, when planted and nurtured, it brings forth fruit. As I’ve been reintegrating this back into my life, there are a few things that I’ve been experiencing as gifts.

Rewriting old commentaries

One gift that I’ve received through active prayer has been the way that it acts on a subconscious level to rewrite the voices or commentaries that contribute to false narratives in my life. For instance, a prayer that I’ve used since my early twenties has been:

Father, I receive Your passionate/extravagant love.

When voices of my False Self kick up saying things like,”Your opinion doesn’t matter,” or “You don’t matter,” this prayer has rewired not only my brain, but also my heart to recognize what matters: that I am loved beyond comprehension, beyond my own reach, beyond myself (what I do or don’t do), and through the rubble of a chaotic society, the only opinion in the universe that really matters, is always inviting me to experience Him more. I have found myself receiving a wild, untamed, unfathomable love throughout the day, and very often, it fuels me through days of lack of sleep, anxieties, stresses, and lack of coffee. 🙂

Grace to go into uncharted territories

Sometimes I’ve found that for a season of life the Lord may lay a prayer on my heart to utilize as an active prayer. For instance, for the past few years, a prayer that I’ve been using often is a phrase inspired by and pulled from the Franciscan Prayer of Peace: “Make us instruments of Your peace.” I pray it often when at home, for my family, as the Lord is teaching me how to be a husband and a father.

Praxis

Pray for a prayer

Take some time in solitude and silence, and ask the Lord for a phrase to integrate into your life as an active/breath prayer. Again, it isn’t long, it is just a short, easy to remember prayer that you can pray multiple times throughout the day. Here are some more examples:

“Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.”

“Come Holy Spirit.”

“My God and my all.”

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

“Lord, I long for more of You.”

Practice and make it a part of your day

Start practicing your active/breath prayer. Spend some time with your prayer phrase, first in quiet, then throughout the day.

  • In quiet: Spend time with the phrase. Ponder it’s meaning and say the words, practice its rhythm.
  • Throughout the day: Whether driving in the car, in moments of silence, on lunch break, or in between meetings, pray your simple phrase. I’ve found that the more I do active prayer, the easier this prayer rises up in me when I’m in even the most challenging situations.

Bless you, as you pray.

 

 

Cultivating Silence

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. Psalm 62:5

Something that has been impactful to me in my walk with the Lord has been integrating quiet/silence into my life. It hasn’t been easy. Life get’s busy, and it’s an odd thing: I’ve found that when you intentionally seek to create more quiet and silence in your life, you discover how much noise is continually crowding in, and sometimes (oftentimes), it is from within us that the noise comes. Silence is something that we need to cultivate. In Psalm 62:5 we see a word in Hebrew for the kind of silencing of oneself that I’m referring to, it is: dâmam. It means to silence oneself, wait, rest, and by implication, to stop. Once we make that space to stop and wait, it is so easy to experience our minds wander from one thing to the next. So, the thing is, to cultivate silence doesn’t just mean to be quiet. We can have that moment of quiet, but inwardly be very noisy. Whether it is worry, fear, insecurities, the running queue of schedules, or maybe even just interests, hobbies, and ambitions, it takes discipline to turn it all off. It is a learning process. I believe that cultivating physical silence is important to unlocking our experience of inward silence, unto experiencing peace – which, I believe is really what our hearts long for.

Here are some reasons that I’ve found quiet and silence to be an avenue to experiencing greater inner peace:

It postures us to better hear the Lord: As the part of an upside-down Kingdom (or, rather, a right-side-up Kingdom in an upside-down world), the call to silence, stillness, and the secret place is counter-cultural to the loud, attention-demanding society that we live in. Often, the Lord speaks in a still, small voice, which means that if our lives are filled with noise, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to hear.

Silence reminds us of our journey: The world has much to say. The noise of media and the ready opinion of crowds in social media are like an air horn into our minds. But silence presents the opportunity to remind us that we are created for so much more. Henri Nouwen said, “To be silent keeps us pilgrims.” When we seek quiet, and relinquish the need to fill the void, we have the opportunity to be reminded of the journey of where we’ve been, and themes that we’ve experienced through our lives. This remembering can be a catalyst for peace, because it reminds us of the Lord’s faithfulness, how He’s led us in the past, and helps to us to frame any difficulties that we’re experiencing in perspective of the “big picture” of our lives.

It teaches us the power of words: As King Solomon reminded us, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Learning to listen, instead of speaking whatever is on our minds or interjecting our opinions, teaches us the power of words. When we allow others to talk, and lay down our needs and listen, we have a chance to understand others better. I’ve found that fighting the need to speak helps me to speak more succinctly into difficult situations, and it helps me to ‘let go’ of little things that don’t matter so much.

Praxis

Stop on the outside

It can be hard to find quiet, but it’s worth fighting for.

Here are some ideas to start cultivating quiet:

  • Driving in silence with the radio off.
  • Taking lunch break to eat in silence: turning off your cell phone, and finding a secluded place to eat and pray.
  • Choosing to be quiet instead of spending time watching TV or being on social media.
  • Taking a hiatus from, or quitting social media.
  • Waking up early before the rest of the house, or staying up a little later than everyone else.
  • Plan an afternoon of solitude.
  • Go for a walk or hike, and be in nature.

Stop on the inside

When you take a break, put down your plans and agendas for this period of quiet. Surrender to the Lord. Practice, in that moment, being Mary at the feet of Jesus, recognizing that we can trust His leading on what we should do and where we should go…but for now, listen and wait.

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Invite the Lord’s presence and pray for the grace to experience His peace in the quiet.
  • Take notice of what thoughts are the filling your mind. Surrender those things to the Lord.
  • Rest and be silent. Don’t feel that you need to move on. *Setting a timer sometimes aids in not having to think about time if you’re on a schedule.

Blessings to you as you cultivate silence in your life.