We know the four kinds of prayer: we can praise God, we can make petitions to ask God for what we feel we need, we can pray in thanksgiving to express our gratitude for what God has done in our lives, and we can pray in intercession to lift up others to God’s care.
But there’s a fifth kind of prayer that may be the most important of all: the prayer of “being with.”
This is a simple kind of prayer. It asks only that you be present and open to God. Matthew 6:8 tells us that God already knows what we need before we even ask. So, it’s not all that necessary to tell Him again. It’s really not as though He needs to be reminded.
What may be vastly more meaningful is to sit with God, with our hands empty and our hearts open, and say, “God, I’d just like to be with You for a little while. I have nothing to ask of You except that I hope I will feel Your presence. In any case, I am going to sit here with my heart open to You. If You have something to say to me, that’s all the better. But if not, maybe we could just be with each other for little while.”
Over time, you may find the “being with” prayer your most blessed kind of communing with God, and it may become your favorite time of each day.
My friend Mary reminded me of that old song that includes the line that the bluest skies you’ll ever see are in Seattle. These October days show clearly why someone might have that thought. It is rare for Seattle to have such a string of beautiful, clear, vivid days like we have been having.
In such a stretch as this, it is easy to forget the unending days of rain, the relentless gray that once made Seattle the suicide capital of the nation, and the storms of winter that are escalating in recent years with more ice and snow than the locals (not to mention the thousands of new folks) know quite how to deal with, considering the seven hills on which Seattle was built.
It is easy to give thanks on days like this, when we feel blessed by the warm sun and the gorgeousness of the changing colors of autumn.
But the days will return when we simply have to know that the blue skies are up there somewhere, when we have to have faith that warm days will be with us again, when we will give thanks even though there appears to be less reason to do so. And the reason we will do that is because the Bible is clear: “… in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (AMP).
One of the best things you can do to keep your life on an even keel is to keep first things first. Of course, we learn this (again) every time we take a webinar or read a book related to effective living. But there is no substitute for actually putting the concept into practice.
You might think there can be only one “first thing” in a day, but I have three. If you think about it, you may find that you have more than one also.
The initial “first” is the first thing in my head when I wake up. Over many years of spiritual practice, my mind has been trained to start the day with a thanksgiving prayer. This particular “first thing” sets the tone for the day, and I am grateful to start each day with this attitude.
The second “first thing” occurs when I sit down at my desk to work. My spiritual practice is to open the workday with a short devotional time. Sometimes it is a few Bible verses; sometimes the workday begins with the day’s reading from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. This is a resource I highly recommend.
The third “first thing” is the first work task for the day. Like everyone else, my work tasks might number anywhere from five to ten in a day, but there is always one that is the most important to my long-range future. That is the one I start with, even when others on the list appear more urgent. And I never put email or Facebook ahead of that one most important task. An excellent book that can help anyone stay focused on this approach to work is Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! The book is structured into 21 chapters on how to stay focused on completing important projects and get more done in less time.
Everyday Spirituality means living close to God every day, living close to whatever you most value, and putting first things first.
The renowned 13th century theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart is credited with the statement: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
On Thanksgiving and the other 364 days in the year, remember to give thanks. It’s the only prayer you need pray.
Among the possible hallmarks for a life, the guiding principles that will at the same time distinguish you and shape your future, there may not be any that can surpass gratitude and faith.
We’re coming into the season in the USA in which people give more thought than usual to being thankful, and it’s an excellent thing that we devote one day a year to giving thanks. But gratitude is more of a 365-days-a-year kind of thing, more of an ongoing attitude of recognizing that all that comes to us has the potential to be a gift that warrants our thanks. And the more we purposely express gratitude, the more we will find to give thanks for. The very attitude by itself is enough to scour negativity out of our minds and out of our hearts.
Faith acts on us in a similar fashion. As long as we have faith – in the work we are doing, in the God we worship, in the integrity of our relationships, in the lives we are building – we can maintain the trust, conviction, and hope to carry forward until we accomplish what we have set out to do. Faith, in this sense, is the opposite of the cynicism that leads to despair.
Every day or so, I receive a “daily insight” in my email box from the folks at AsAManThinketh.net. Here is one from a day or two ago, suggesting that Maya Angelou has a similar outlook on gratitude and faith:
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good. ~Maya Angelou