A prayer from Origen (184-253):
Let us pray that Jesus may reign over us and that our land may be at peace — i.e., that our bodies may be free from the assaults of fleshly desires. When these have ceased, we shall be able to rest, beneath our vines, our fig-trees and our olives.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit will shelter us as we rest, our peace of mind and body once recovered.
Glory to God the eternal, age after age.
We have many, many ways to avoid being present in the moment. We can interrupt ourselves as often as we like. And now it appears that a Harvard study of happiness and contentment has linked these constant interruptions as detrimental to our happiness.
A wandering mind that isn’t focused or fully present for an activity or task is often an unhappy mind.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to Christians who practice contemplation, as mindfulness and awareness of our thoughts saves us from their tyranny and enables us to trust our worries and concerns with God.
However, it’s still helpful to see how the wisdom of our faith has strong backing from science:
“A recent Harvard study reveals that stray thoughts and wandering minds are directly related to unhappiness. The study discovered that those with constantly wandering minds were less likely to be happy than those able to focus on the tasks at hand.”
“Csikszentmihalyi, often called the grandfather of positive psychology, found that our happiest moments are when we are in the state of flow. In this state, we are highly alert. We are totally focused with one-pointed attention. This focus–this mindfulness of being in the moment–is when true happiness spontaneously arises.”
“Flow allows you to truly and deeply live your life as it unfolds in the here and now. Perhaps this is why the latest research continues to confirm that mindfulness increases happiness–to be mindful is to truly experience life and make the most out of every moment.”
“The Lord knows people’s thoughts; he knows they are worthless! Joyful are those you discipline, Lord, those you teach with your instructions.”
– Psalm 94:11-12, NLT
What better motivation to pursue the silence and rest of contemplative prayer than to read that God knows our thoughts are worthless!
While there is a great deal in scripture that praises meditating on scripture and remembering God’s laws, this Psalm offers a reality check for the times when we rely on our own wisdom. Most importantly, we find that even when God sees our inadequacies and failures, he responds with mercy and instruction.
Even when God knows that we will fall short over and over again, he desires to give us the joy of his instruction and discipline. May we find God’s loving direction, even as we discover the folly of our wisdom.
“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38, NLT
How do we live by faith today? Mary faced one of the greatest stretches of faith that anyone could face, and she remained able to fully trust in God’s provision and plan because she knew her place.
As God’s servant, Mary only had to trust what God showed her.
It wasn’t up to Mary to figure out the plan or to provide the means. She didn’t imagine that she was in charge in any way, and with herself entrusted to God’s care, she didn’t have to be worry about what happens next.
Living by faith as the servants of God makes it possible to approach the challenges of each day with a peaceful confidence in God’s provision.
“O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Psalm 8:1, NRSV
Creation is God’s invitation for us to witness his glory and beauty. The stars above our heads each night preach a message of creativity and love.
Taking a walk, enjoying our surroundings, and finding peace in a deep breath of fresh air can all become acts of worship for our caring God. It also falls to us to find ways we can care for God’s creation in order to preserve this message of creativity and care for future generations.
May we always find new reasons to praise the majestic name of God as we observe his work all around us.
“But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Luke 12:7, NRSV
God is intimately acquainted with us, knowing our desires, faults, and needs as well as mental, physical, and spiritual identities. We are known deeply and intimately by our creator, and whether that sounds like good news or bad news for you, Jesus assures us that we are deeply valued by God.
Our creator has been deeply invested in our every detail. How could he stop caring for us?
We can talk ourselves out of his love. We can argue that we have sinned too much, become too complacent, and not done enough for God.
When God sees you, he sees a beloved creation that is known from head to toe. You are worthy of love and restoration simply because he is intimately invested in who you are as your creator.
Today’s prayer is from the Divine Hours:
“Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Read more in The Divine Hours.
“The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”
Psalm 146:8-9, NRSV
We’re often faced with situations where we can lift ourselves up in the esteem of others, secure our own safety, and ensure that we aren’t in a vulnerable position.
God, on the other hand, has drawn near to those who are most vulnerable and in need of help. That doesn’t mean they see the kind of success we have associated with being “blessed.”
The greatest blessing is to fully entrust yourself into God’s care, whether by choice or circumstance.
That doesn’t always feel like winning or being lifted up. In fact, it often feels lot like bowing down, which is right where we will be most aware of our need for God. We will certainly be in the loving gaze of God when we help those who are in the greatest need.
Praise the Lord! I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.
How do we become aware of God’s presence in our lives?
First, we prioritize time spent in Christian community, giving thanks together for the ways God has been present and provided for us. As our faith struggles or falters, we’ll find encouragement through the stories of God’s faithfulness among others.
Second, we grow in our delight of God by pondering the ways that God has been at work in our lives.
We shouldn’t be surprised that we struggle to see God at work if we don’t take time to ponder his presence each day.
“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
How do we enter into prayer and worship? Self-examination is always helpful, especially if we have a reason to confess a wrong to a friend, colleague, or neighbor.
The monks who instructed novices in prayer typically noted that some distractions were a from God. A distraction may illuminate an area of our lives that requires repentance before we are free to pray.
Self-examination preemptively faces our distractions or failures and gives us a chance to take action before we enter into prayer. And if you don’t have time to pray because you’re busy seeking reconciliation, I trust that this obedience is precious to Jesus.