Ways to Pray : Lent 2017
Thank you for joining me on this journey through different prayer practices during Lent. This is something you can do on your own, with your family, or even a small group. You can do it as often as is helpful for you – I am suggesting you try the same practice once each day during the week if you are able. I am sending a new “Way to Pray” each Monday morning leading up to Easter.
Praying in Nature : 13-19 March
How has trying these prayer practices over the past weeks been for you? I haven’t been able to do them every day myself, so just an encouragement that this series is mostly about exposing us to different ways to pray. Try them as you are able!
This week, we are going to pray in nature. Now, I realise that your weather, location, time of day, or the season may affect how much you are able to do this one. BUT, basically if you can get out your door, you can do this 🙂
Some of you LOVE to be outside and deeply connect with God in the outdoors, particularly natural spaces. You find beauty, and breath, and depth, and life there. I also know that some of us really DON’T feel this way and prefer the quiet controlled indoors or other urban active settings instead. We all have different preferences and often don’t understand how others can’t appreciate what we find most helpful. On a more theological level, it has historically been maintained that one of the primary places God is revealed is through the creation. So I think it is important to not neglect this way of uniquely encountering God, even if it’s not your preference. Perhaps most important in my mind, however, is the reality that most of us do not live our day-to-day lives in contact with nature. Without writing a treatise on why we need to be in natural spaces (others have done this, and there is plenty of debate elsewhere), can I just say that it is important BECAUSE it is abnormal for most of us. In other words, we will encounter God in natural spaces because the unfamiliarity opens us up to seeking, hearing, and experiencing God in different ways.
So what are we doing?
I think the name “Praying in Nature” about says it all 😉
You need to find a place. You mind want somewhere that is more quiet or uncrowded, but that’s not necessary (go where you are able, although some places will work better for you than others). I’m thinking of gardens, parks, mountains, forests, beaches, trails, streams, backyards. It doesn’t need to be exotic or cost you.
Here are five suggestions of what you might do (pick one to start):
1. Sitting (or walking) in silence
I’m an unashamed advocate for silence. In my experience, being silent in nature produces something entirely different in me than sitting quietly at home. I would suggest a minimum of 5 minutes (you can do it!). Listen for God’s voice. Talk to God. I also find that if I am walking in silence, my thoughts tend to collect themselves. This is something different than thinking or even talking to me. It’s more like lots of thoughts that are already there seem to fall into place or make more sense. I am not sure WHY I experience this, but God seems to work with me this way. I wonder if you find the same to be true?
2. Find an Object
Jesus often used the things around him to teach: consider the lilies, see these birds, it is like a road, this rock, this temple, be like these children… God has a way of taking things and using them to say something to us. So when we are in nature, there is LOTS for God to use. This could be something small – a rock, an insect, a leaf; or I find myself often drawn to things like paths, mountains, clouds, and streams. As you consider this, ask God to speak to you using questions like:
- how is this like me/my life right now?
- why does this draw my attention?
- what is God saying?
- is there a lesson here for me to learn?
Sometimes you might actually use the opportunity to talk to God about something on your heart or taking place in your life that doesn’t necessarily seem connected to the object (looking at a stream while praying for a sick friend, for example), to allow God’s Spirit to speak with you beyond all the words you might otherwise bring to the conversation.
3. Prayer Circle
I have shared this idea (which I got from Christine Sine) on my fb page before. The idea is to sit or stand somewhere and imagine a circle around you representing God’s love or protection or healing or provision (what does God want to surround you with today?). Because you are outdoors, you can also use something(s) to represent this circle – rocks, twigs, shells… I think it can be helpful to have something tangible like this to connect with my prayers (similar, in this sense, to the function of prayer beads and prayer shawls, etc.). Below is a photo showing how you could also do this with paper and words as well. I will add that this is a symbol – a physical expression of something spiritual. It is not magic – there is no spiritual power inherent in any objects you choose to work with.
You will need a Bible for this
There is something very meaningful about reading a Psalm while in nature, particularly the Psalms which reference the creation in which you are sitting. How silly of us to read about the sun or mountains or seas while sitting in our bedrooms. Go see those things God is talking about! One can also walk while reading a Psalm [did you know that Psalms 120-134 were read/sung while ascending the road to Jerusalem/the Temple?]. Similarly, you can pray a blessing or written prayer or even a poem. Here is one website where you can find quite a few.
5. Build an Altar
Is there something in your life that you need to commemorate, mourn, celebrate, remember, start, or end? Build an altar as you pray. You can use just about anything (depending on what is available, how long you want it to last, and what is appropriate to where you are). People build altars and monuments all the time. This is a powerful prayer practice and is very well suited to the outdoors. On some Selah days I have led, people have built altars, taken photos and journaled/written prayers (to remember/share with others), and then removed them because it was a public space.
That’s it 🙂 Go give it a try and please send me any feedback or questions. It is especially helpful for me to hear/see what you’ve done with this yourself. You may need a few attempts to get the feel for it or you may not find this particular practice to be one you love or want to add to your ongoing prayer life. Or you may! Either way, may you find yourself connecting with God through this unique way to pray.
The Ways to Pray series for Lent 2017:
1 March – Praying in Colour
6 March – Prayer of Examen
13 March – Praying in Nature
20 March – Listening Prayer
27 March – Prayer with Song
3 April – Praying through Service
10 April – Kingdom Prayer Pictures