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Tools for Life

Various Approaches to Prayer

The most important thing to remember is that how you pray is not what matters most. What matters most is simply that you pray. Yet, even those who have active prayer lives benefit from exploring and reviewing different means of spending time in prayer. Below you will find practical ways that have been developed and redeveloped over the centuries.  If you find yourself in a dry spot and need help, please reach out to one of our clergy or lay-leaders. We are here to help.

MEDITATION or CONTEMPLATIVE: The difference between meditation in eastern religions and Christian meditation is the end goal. Eastern religions have detachment as the goal of their meditation. For Christians, the detachment of meditation is only a means for a better attachment or closeness with God. There are many ways for Christians to meditate. Below is a rather popular method called Centering Prayer. This is not a secret code that you must follow. It is an instrument to be used as it is helpful.

  1. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Sit comfortably in a quiet space. If you go to sleep, then that is what you needed. Embrace that and try again at another time of day.
  3. Choose a word to be your prayer word. Any word will do. It is not about the meaning of the word. A few good ones are Jesus, Abba, Shalom, or Peace.

  4. Begin repeating that word in your mind or aloud over and over. Thinking only about that word. Think not about what it means but just the word itself. Even trying to visualize the word.

  5. Breathe. Notice your breathing.

  6. Other thoughts will come. Do not be upset about that but expect it. When they come, just let them go by returning your focus to repeating your prayer word. Some find it helpful to envision a river flowing through their minds. When they find themselves thinking about something, they never get upset about it, but they just place those thoughts in the river and they flow out of sight, unable to return upstream. More thoughts will come! That is a part of meditation.

  7. After a bit of calming your thoughts, you will find that you can stop repeating the word and you can just be still and rest your mind, abiding it in the presence of God. Again, thoughts will soon return. That is the point of meditation.

  8. Sit, resting your mind in the presence of God, asking him to change you so that you might be blessed and a blessing in his name.

THE EXAMIN (boiled down to TSP): Below is similar to Ignatius of Loyola's "Examin" boiled down to T.S.P. (teaspoon or Thank You, Sorry, Please).

  1. At the end of each day, take a few moments to think back about your day, reviewing each thing from the time you got out of bed.

  2. Find things, simple and big, for which you are moved to say THANK YOU.

  3. Next, find things for which you are moved to say SORRY.

  4. Finally, find things for which you are moved to say PLEASE. Be sure to pray for yourself as well as others.

BREATH PRAYER: These very simple and practical prayers are powerful. They help us to quietly integrate our relationship with God into our ordinary daily lives. They also help us to overcome our old ways of living. Google some examples of these prayers. Or try this one for now.

As you walk, drive, sit in a stressful situation, or sit just being blessed, do this with each breath you breathe.

  • Breathing in, say - "I am..."

  • Breathing out,  say - "Here now..."

  • Breathing in, again, say - "In this."

Repeat this with each breath, realizing that this calls us to two realizations. First, the "I AM" is here whatever it is that you are doing. God, in Jesus, he has promised to be always with you. Second, this breath prayer calls us to be present ourselves in the very acts that we are doing - "I AM (you)...I this." Turn away from the thoughts that distract you and pull you away from living the present moment that you are being given by God. It is a gift not to be squandered, for it is where God awaits.

LECTIO DIVINA: ("Divine Reading) This prayer method involves scripture, meditation, and ongoing contemplation. Through Lectio Divina, people are often able to gain personal insights from the scriptures for their life.

A bit of an encouragement and a warning. There is a real need for a person to be anchored to a faith community while utilizing Lectio Divinia (or really studying the bible in general). This method encourages you to use your own creativity and sanctified imagination. We are bound to misunderstand God from time to time. Staying connected with a community of faith allows the Holy Spirit, over time, to correct any misunderstandings we may have through the lives of others and the teachings of a faithful church. To put it a bit bluntly, as GK Chesterton taught, "Thinking in isolation (and with arrogance) leads to becoming an idiot." The scriptures are given by God to do the opposite.


  1. Settle in a quiet place and say a prayer inviting God to bless these moments. Quiet your mind, perhaps with a few minutes of centering prayer or meditation.

  2. Read a short passage of scripture slowly and attentively at least two or three times (start with a passage from the New Testament). As you read, be attentive for any word or a phrase that catches your attention that God may use to nudge your heart. After you notice a word or phrase, begin to repeat and roll it around in your mind and heart.

  3. Reflect and meditate patiently on this word or phrase. Sit in silence and allow God space to communicate with you through this word or phrase. Allow him to encourage, guide, or even correct you.

  4. Respond to God in prayer by praying to him about what you have heard, and then carry this word or phrase with you into your day. Continuing to consider and reflect upon it.

Google this topic and you will find a load of resources. Maria Tasto's The Transforming Power of Lectio Divina not a bad resource to consider.




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