Wasting Time with God

January 8, 2007

Handout from adult education offering presented to St. James/Austin on 1/7/07.

Sorry for the formatting problems – I don’t have time to fix them at the moment, but it gets a little better the further down you go.



“Wasting time with God” 

Two central Questions to ask yourself about your prayer life[i]:

  1. How do you listen to God when you pray?
  2. When you do listen to God, what do you typically share or imagine sharing with God about what you have heard?

Perhaps the ultimate goal of prayer is to get close enough to God to have life itself be a prayer?

                Living the active life contemplatively is the geniusness of Benedictine life.

                           Sister Joan Chittister(Anglican spirituality is based off of Benedictine tradition)  

                If you have an eye for it, the world itself is a sacrament.                                                                                                                               
                                      St. Augustine

            Sacrament – an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace…                                                 BCP, p.857                  “I’m trying to widen the crack between the past and the future.”                                                                                                                                Anonymous

 Prayer is being in the present moment with God; deepening our trust, faith, hope, and love in God.  Over time, that deep inner relationship with God begins to manifest itself outwardly in our relationships with others.

Word Prayers

  • Simplest prayer:  “Thank you.”  Not because God needs to be thanked, but because we need to thank God.
  • Other simple forms of prayer[ii]:
    • ACTS:
      • A – Adoration – praise God for who God is
      • C – Confession – own up to our sins
      • T – Thanksgiving – thank God for all God has done
      • S – Supplication – make requests for ourselves and others
    • Take a TRIP with God; ask the following questions
      • T – Thanks – for what am I thankful?
      • R – Regret – What do I regret?
      • I – Intercession – Whom do I need to pray for?
      • P – Purpose – what is my purpose or plan (this day, week, my life)?
    • PARTS of Prayer
      • P – Praise
      • A – Ask
      • R – Repent
      • T – Thank
      • S – Share
  • Book of Common Prayer – some suggestions: Morning Prayer p. 75, Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families p. 137, Compline p. 127, Collects p. 211, Psalter p. 585, Prayers and Thanksgivings p. 810, Daily Office Lectionary p. 934
  • Holy Scripture
    • See Daily Office Lectionary, BCP p. 934
    • Psalms
  • Journal Prayers
    • Letters to God – keep a journal of written prayers addressed to God
    • Prayer journal – keep a journal of your petitions and intercessions, reviewing them occasionally in prayer to see how God has responded to your requests

Contemplative Prayers

It may be especially helpful to begin and end all contemplative prayer—all prayer for that matter—with a few moments of silence.  Most contemplative prayer works best when performed regularly over a long period of time, and each form of prayer suits some people but not others.  Find one that works for you. “The circles in spider webs are sticky but the radii are not.  If you wander from side to side in life you get stuck, but if you move to the center, you don’t.”  — Huston Smith. 

  • Rhythmic Prayer – using the rhythm of words, repeated over and over to recollect, often while walking or jogging  (also for walking try a Labyrinth)
  • Chanting – similar to rhythmic prayer, chanting can use words to center.  Try using the first ten words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father whom art in heaven hallowed be thy name”- and between every word, chant the sound “Ah” twice—a sound which is found in the name of God in almost every tradition (F AH ther, AH llah, Y AH weh, etc.).
  • Anglican Rosary – using a rosary, work your way around the circle saying a prayer on each bead.  See http://www.kingofpeace.org/prayerbeads.htm for some sample prayers.
  • Visualization – a safe place which can be used repeatedly for prayer of all kinds. “Mountain Meadow”
    • Picture yourself in a safe place
    • Notice all the surroundings; the temperature, are you inside, outside, etc.
    • Have God meet your there (or Jesus, or light, or another comforting image)
    • Offer your petition (you may choose to offer it visually, as in a bowl, etc.)
    • Or visualize the person you are praying for there, and God/Jesus interceding on his/her behalf
    • The “safe place”, once visualized, will always be available to you
  • Silence – just “being” with God; offering oneself to God and listening instead of talking—whether or not one hears anything.  An intentional act of letting go of ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to move within us.  “God hears all the voices that speak out of us—our vocal prayer, the prayer said in our minds, the unvoiced longing rising from our hearts, the many voices of which we are not conscious but which cry out eloquently… If we can let ourselves go in prayer and speak all that is in our minds and hearts, if we can sit quietly and bear the silence, we will hear all the bits and pieces of ourselves crowding in on us, pleading for our attention.”[iii]
    • Centering prayer – a specific form of silence where one clears thoughts by allowing them to pass by, as boats on a river.  “Denial of our inmost self includes detachment from the habitual functioning of our intellect and will, which are our inmost faculties.  This may require letting go not only of ordinary thoughts during prayer, but also of our most devout reflections and aspirations insofar as we treat them as indispensable means of going to God.”[iv]
    • Practical tips for silence:  remember that your intent is to become completely immersed in the present moment.  Focus on breathing and remember that God is with you in this moment.  Your mind may try to play tapes of the past or think about the future; when this happens gently guide yourself back to a focus on breathing.  End with a short prayer.
  • Lectio Divina – (Note:  there are several forms of lectio divina).  Using a passage of scripture, read and meditate several times in contemplation.
    • First reading (Lectio):  read the passage casually—do not try to interpret or extract any particular meaning from the passage.  Notice, perhaps even write down any words that stand out for you.  Sit in a few moments of silence with the passage and with the words that stood out for you.
    • Second reading (Meditatio):  read the passage again.  This time, put yourself into the scene alongside the writer as a character, placing some meaning into your own life.  Take time in meditation to use all your senses:  what does it smell like?  How does it feel?  What is the emotional atmosphere in the passage?  Etc.
    • Third reading (Contemplatio):  There is no specific objective for this reading other than being with God.  Read the passage a final time, and sit in silence and union with the Holy Spirit.  This may be difficult for the Western mind, as is centering prayer/silence.
  • Examen (of Consciousness) – Ignatian spiritual practice (this is modified to be a five minute practice), usually performed just before bed (although it could be performed any time of day)
    • Begin by quieting and becoming aware of the presence of God
    • Ask God to be with you through the exercise, shining light on your day that you may see with clarity
    • Begin a thorough review of your day, starting with the time you woke up and ending with the present moment.  Look for the times that you were closest to God during the day, and the times when you strayed from God.
    • Give thanks to God for the times when you were close to him today.  Ask for help and forgiveness where you have failed and learn from your mistakes, but don’t live in a spirit of condemnation.
    • Think about what tomorrow, and where you need God’s help.  Ask God for what you need in order to keep God close to you.

The web is full of resources for prayer.  For starters, see (sorry for the long links, nobody said prayer was easy!):



[i] Adapted from Bidwell, Duane R.  Short Term Spiritual Guidance. 
Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2004.  P. 46-47

[ii] From http://www.elca.org/prayer/resources/simple.html

[iii] Ulanov, Ann and Barry.  Primary Speech:  A Psychology of Prayer. 
Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.  p.1-2.

[iv] Keating, Thomas.  Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel. 
New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2005.  p. 15.


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