Want to supercharge your prayer life? You don’t need fancy turns of phrase, and you don’t need to spend hours on your knees. (You can of course, that’s up to you. But it’s not strictly necessary.) But here is a great method that I use twice a day – first thing in the morning, after a short reading from stuff Jesus has said, and once again at night, after a short reading from stuff Jesus has said. (I’m big on Jesus.) I didn’t create this prayer form, but I love it.
There are three steps to this prayer, and it only takes five minutes. You can imagine Jesus, or the Holy Spirit guiding you through it, right there next to you the entire time. (Or not, if that weirds you out.)
Step One: Lay Your Gifts at God’s Altar
So, close your eyes and approach God’s altar in your mind. Then take your gifts and put them on God’s altar – and don’t take them back again. What are your gifts? Only the things that are the very closest and dearest things for you: your worries, your fears, your anxieties, your angers, your concerns, your personal pains that you would never discuss with anyone else. Pull them out from your chest and put them on God’s altar. They are your sacrifice to God: You are giving them up in that moment, if only for that moment.
Whenever I do this, inevitably my subconscious comes up with some dead-to-rights and often amusing imagery. For instance, when I’m pre-, mid-, or post- migraine, my migraines are one of those concerns that I have to lay on God’s altar. When I imagine pulling that out of myself and putting it up there… I end up putting a little skull with a giant fissure down the center, as if someone had taken an axe to it. That’s what my migraines feel like.
One way to think of this step, taking all your worries and frustrations and literally giving them to God, is that when we don’t give them to God, when we hold on to them more tightly than we hold on to our relationship with God… those fears and angers become idols in our lives. God really doesn’t want us to love our own pain more than His calm – it’s not good for us and He knows it.
Step Two: Gratitude
Once you’ve finished with Step One, it’s time to shift over to Step Two. This is the time when we can simply get lost in being grateful to God for giving us everything. Everything. For providing for our needs, for giving us the grace to love when it’s hard, for giving us peace in the midst of suffering and joy when by all rights we should be annoyed.
This step doesn’t take long – just a moment will be fine, but make it count. Fancy words aren’t necessary – all you’ve got to do is feel it.
Step Three: Rest
So you’ve laid your crazy life at God’s feet, you’ve been properly grateful that He can take it better than you can… and now you get to rest. Just rest. Spend the remainder of your five minute prayer time simply resting in God. Do your best to focus your mind so you don’t inadvertently go back to the altar and pick up all the things you laid down in the first step, but if you find your mind wandering, be gentle with yourself, as God is. Just kindly remind yourself that now is your chance to rest.
And then do so.
Side Effects: A Peaceful Life
The point of this prayer is Union with God. Divine Union, even. It’s to join with God and recall that, actually, this is our natural state. And this is a state that we don’t have to be special to attain. and this is a state we can return to at any time, and stay in for as long as we like, even when we’re driving down the street. That’s the point of this prayer.
The side effect of this prayer is a life that is more peaceful, more joyful and more loving, with more inspiration exactly when you need it. But don’t pray for the peace, or the joy, or the love, or even the inspiration. That’s not how it works. Peace, Joy, Love and Inspiration are side effects of becoming one with God.
…recently heard in Sare’s Easter 5A sermon at St. Luke’s in Jamestown, NY and Church of the Ascension, Buffalo, NY…