Being Still as Prayer

Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Many of us are in motion much of the time. We are in motion at our jobs, in motion with our many activities, in motion seeking entertainment and diversion. Even when we are not in motion physically, we are likely to be in motion mentally. Our minds spin with lists of things to do, with conversations we intend to have, with anxieties that won’t go away.

Much of this motion is an inescapable part of life. But it is not the essence of life. There is a time for being in motion. And there is also a time to be still.

“Be still and know that I am God,” we read. What is the relationship between being still and knowing that God is God?

Too often the constant physical and mental activities in which we engage are attempts to distract ourselves from the pain in our lives and in our world. We keep ourselves busy as a way of numbing ourselves from the things that overwhelm us.

Our constant motion may also come from a sense of drivenness. We live as if everything depends on our efforts. We act as if we have to try harder and try our hardest. We fall into the trap of believing that we have to figure everything out so that we can somehow change things that are beyond our control. We forget that life is meant to be lived in reliance on God. We forget that God is God and we are not.

To be still is to intentionally let go, for a time, of all our doing, trying and striving. To be still is to allow ourselves to intentionally rest in God’s loving presence.

Centering prayer offers a helpful approach to finding stillness in the midst of life. The method is simple, yet it requires much practice because it turns out that it is not easy to still either our bodies or our minds.

This way of praying begins by sitting with feet flat on the floor, our back supported, our breathing slow and easy. And then, gently, introducing a word to serve as a centering point. Just one word of our choosing (like peace, Lord, or Love). The word is not a word to meditate on or to focus on, but a word that we come back to over and over again, every time our mind is distracted. The word is used as a way of expressing our intention to rest in God’s loving presence, with minds and bodies that are still.

This prayer of stilling our body and mind allows us to be present to the presence of God. It allows us to cease our striving and to know that God is God. The goal of this kind of prayer is not mindlessness but a focused openness to God. It is a conscious offering of ourselves to God.

I do and do
and strive and strive
and try to figure things out,
forgetting that life
was meant to be lived
in reliance on you.
Help me to still my body
and my mind
so that I can rest
in your presence,
so that I can know again
that you are God.

Prayer suggestion:

Set a timer for twenty minutes (the first few times you might want to begin with ten minutes). Sit comfortably and well supported. Take a few deep easy breaths. Continue breathing slowing and easily. Choose a centering word (Lord, rest, peace, or love are a few examples.) Use this word as an expression of your intention to let go of distractions as they come, and to instead rest in God’s loving presence. Continue to gently reintroduce the word each time your mind wanders. Let yourself be still and know that God is God.

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