just needing to jot down thoughts from yesterday’s women’s breakfast in church – things that I found helpful in the talks we heard.
change is ok, it’s part of life – yes, I knew that, but hadn’t thought about how this can affect my prayer life, that there may be stuff that worked for me at some stage but now doesn’t so much, there may be new things I need to try, I can’t just assume that the methods that were ideal for me ten years ago are going to remain ideal for me forever, because I’m not exactly the same person as I was then.
They talked about ways into stillness – which vary from person to person, but can also vary for the same person at different times. One question was something along the lines of: when have you heard God or felt his presence most? because if you can think what circumstances you have found helpful, you can try to recreate them. (Not that we’re trying to get God to speak to us – he will when he chooses – but there are ways of making ourselves more open to hearing him.)
When I heard this question, I immediately remembered how I’d once on retreat found to my surprise that I heard God better when I was not deliberately trying to – I was sitting and doing a jigsaw puzzle, and that stilled me, it slowed me down and also it meant my thoughts weren’t going all over the place as I was concentrating on the jigsaw puzzle.
At the women’s breakfast there were pens and sheets of paper on each table in case we wanted to make notes. When we were invited to have a few moments of silence, I immediately grabbed a pen and a sheet of paper and started doodling. It had the same effect as the jigsaw puzzle – it got my mind focused on this thing I was doing, and I felt full of peace and very conscious of God being there. Most of the time, my mind is buzzing with thoughts – this is just one way of getting it to stop doing that.
I think I used to be better at stilling myself in other ways – just sitting down and closing my eyes (these days I’m more likely to nod off if I do that); sitting and looking at something calming, like a river, but then there’s not much of that round here and I feel I need to learn ways that can work for me right here at home. There is a place nearby that I find peaceful and I think it would be good for me to go there more often, but there’s also the issue of making the best out of where God has put me, and needing to experience his presence more regularly so that I won’t wilt.
So I might start doodling more. I feel that was the major pointer for me yesterday: that sometimes what works is actually not a deliberate “I’m going to try and focus on God now” but actually an activity that helps me become still, and then I can hear him better.
Other stuff they mentioned which I already knew about but I’m going to throw it here in case it’s helpful to others reading this post:
Keeping a pen and paper next to you so that when distracting thoughts come, you can just jot them down instead of fighting them.
Reading a verse of Scripture out loud – easier to focus on it than when reading silently.
Handing problems over to God – sometimes it helps to act it out, by making a fist and imagining you’re holding the problem in your hand, then opening your fist and letting the problem drop. Or, what would work better for me, is imagining I’m putting the problem in God’s hand, and acting out the handing over.
(A book I read a long long time ago which taught me a lot about this is Listening to God by Joyce Huggett. Another helpful book I’ve read more recently is Personality and Prayer by Ruth Fowke, which discusses how our personality types affect our prayer lives.)