Today’s Thought: How can I pray when my mind is so full?
Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father… (Matthew 6:6)
This evening, I am surrounded by silence as I sit in my room at a history-laden bed and breakfast near the seminary. I’m here to attend a lecture and for the next three days, I will make my bed and eat my breakfast in this house. I have stayed here before in the same room, so it has the warm feel of familiarity. With a homemade do not disturb sign hung on the knob, and the locks all locked for the night, I climb up into the antique bed. It’s the perfect place and time for prayer. Now, where did I put those words?
Sometimes prayer is hard for me, especially nights like this when I have a million other things on my mind. Granted, I’m encircled by silence as I snuggle in my little room cocoon, but inside my brain there’s a full-blown, five-alarm firestorm of thoughts that cannot be contained. For me, there’s only one way to quiet the tempest: pray the Lord’s Prayer. And not just once, but over and over and over. When I can’t find the words for all the wind, I go back to the Sermon on the Mount and the words I memorized as a child:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen. (From Matthew 6:9-13; Book of Common Prayer)
Some nights I pray the Lord’s Prayer five or six times… some nights I lose count. But by the end, my mind is quiet. I don’t need to race around my brain, knocking over this thought and that, trying to find the right words to speak to God. I don’t need to cheapen my time in conversation with God to a few, quickly thrown together, empty phrases.
Jesus gave us the words to pray when no other words will come. These are the words that take me back to God, that allow me to praise him in a way that honors him, and that give me peace in my mind and my heart.
Monday Meditation: “If we can’t say thy will be done from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be.” (Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)