Greetings from Romania!
I was telling my hostess (Clara from my book, “Look, Listen, Love”) about how my prayers have changed over the past year. But actually the change goes back before that. I was divorced in 2008, and the thing about divorce is that it messes up your mind. I was having trouble praying because every time I closed my eyes, my mind went back to the divorce, chewing on it like a dog with a bone. So I got a notebook and started writing out my prayers. For two years I wrote my prayers in notebooks, then little by little I was able to spend time in prayer without a notebook: five minutes, then ten, and supplementing those prayers with written prayers. Finally about a year ago I was able to pray without using a notebook at all, and started spending more time in prayer.
Then I went back to the US last fall and stayed with my mom for five months. Mom invited me to her centering prayer group. I hadn’t heard of centering prayer, so I was intrigued. Centering prayer is also called contemplative prayer, and could also be called meditation. Christian meditation, unlike other meditation, does not involve emptying your mind. Instead, it is contemplating God or an aspect of God’s character. Actually, centering prayer has been practiced for centuries, and like many good things, the devil has his counterfeit version.
I went to the centering prayer group and found that it wasn’t difficult at all to pass 20 minutes contemplating God. In fact, in later sessions I found myself disappointed at having to stop after only 20 minutes.
During my time in the US I went to a missionary conference in Tucson. I stayed an extra day because I had never been to Tucson. So I went to the Botanical Gardens and late in the afternoon I was just entering the Saguaro National Park. There, just as I was entering the park was a sign: Desert House of Prayer. I was intrigued, so I hooked a U turn. I was welcomed and invited to evening prayer.
After evening prayer I returned to my original itinerary, Saguaro National Park. By then it was sunset, and seeing the majestic saguaro cacti at sunset was absolutely spectacular. There was a reverent feeling of being in a natural cathedral.
Since returning to Europe, I’ve continued centering prayer by myself. I have found that in those times when I don’t bombard God with petitions, but just sit quietly at His feet, are the times of great emotional healing. If you’ve never tried centering prayer, I recommend it. Here is the official centering prayer website where you can find out more about it: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/. But really, the best way to learn about it is to do it.
Here’s a website for the Desert House of Prayer: http://www.deserthouseofprayer.org/.
And here’s a website for Saguaro National Park: http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm.
God is good!