Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Partnering in Prayer - A Lenten Devotion - Day 42 - Meditation: Prayer with an Attitude

Day 42 – Tuesday
Meditation: Prayer With An Attitude
I have a bad attitude today. My schedule didn’t work out like I wanted it to—and when my schedule gets messed up, it really gets me off-kilter. On top of that, it seems like everybody in our family was arguing with everybody else—me included. Today, my prayer time was broken into parts—half in the morning, and half at night. The morning prayer time went well enough, but at night, after all the discord, my nerves were a wreck. I didn’t want to pray. And I also didn’t want to sit down and write this email. To tell you the truth, I just wanted to say, “forget it—we’ll chalk today up as a loss,” and go to bed. I didn’t feel right about taking my bad attitude into God’s presence. I would rather just avoid Him.

Have you ever felt that way? Or when you have a sin on your conscience and you know that if you pray, you’ll have to deal with it before God—so instead of praying, you just avoid God altogether? It seems easier, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not. God is big enough to handle my bad attitude. He’s not going to be offended by my honest acknowledgement of anger and exhaustion. He’s going to meet me right where I am, without expecting me to approach Him with high and lofty spirituality.

I really didn’t feel like praying. And since I didn’t feel like praying, I didn’t feel like writing about praying. Yet, I am aware that my need for prayer has nothing to do with whether I feel like it. It has to do with the fact that, as Daniel Henderson says, “God is worthy to be sought.” So if God is worthy despite my mood, and prayer is indispensable to me whether I feel like it or not, then I determined to settle into prayer.

So, what kind of prayer is appropriate when you just don’t feel like praying?

I turn to the simple practice of Christian meditation. In meditation, you choose a word or phrase from the Bible that embodies your intention as you pray, or embodies your understanding of God. It might be “grace” or “Hosanna (a good Holy Week one, which means “Lord, save!”) I chose “Maranatha,” which is a time-tested meditation word, passed down to us from the desert fathers of the early church. “Maranatha” is an Aramaic word which means, “Come, Lord!” It is the final word Paul uses at the conclusion of the book of 1 Corinthians. The book of Revelation ends with a similar phrase from John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” So it’s great for meditation. It’s one word that simply invites Christ’s presence into the meditation time.

As you meditate, simply repeat your word or phrase. Breathe deeply, and let each syllable of that word or phrase last the full length of your deep exhaling breath. With your next inhalation, pronounce the next syllable (without using your vocal cords, because that’d just sound silly). So Ma-ra-na-tha would be exhale (Ma) – inhale (Ra) – exhale (Na) – inhale (Tha). Take your time with it; you’re not in a hurry. Or, if you have chosen a full verse from the Bible, make sure it’s one that you can repeat in the course of one long breath. When I do something like this, I use “My grace is sufficient for you,” or The Jesus Prayer (click here for more information on this prayer, which is drawn from scripture).[i]

Meditating on God’s word isn’t the “vain repetition” which Jesus denounced in Matthew 6:7. It’s repetition, but it certainly is neither pointless nor ego-centric. It’s a way to let God’s word get inside you, like hitting a long nail with a hammer over and over again. Only with repetition will it finally sink in.

So when you’re too worked-up to pray, either from anger, or despair, or whatever emotion grips you and threatens to take away your time with God, remember that your prayer words don’t have to be your own. Choose the words of scripture for your prayer—you can’t go wrong by praying God’s word. God already knows if you’re in a bad mood, so you might as well not try to hide it. If you have a bad attitude, then try prayer with an attitude—try meditation. You’ll be glad you did.

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