"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 :)