By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
You know that prayer (talking to God) and meditation (listening to God) are valuable. But how often have you planned to start praying and meditating more, only to see your good intentions go nowhere? In the stress of daily life, it can seem like scheduling time to pray and meditate is just one more obligation to add to your to-do list. It’s actually a wonderful privilege to be able to communicate with our Creator, though. By connecting prayer and meditation with a sense of wonder, you can build spiritual discipline habits you’ll enjoy and be motivated to continue. Here’s how:
Don’t be afraid to honestly express your difficult thoughts and feelings to God, and to listen to whatever challenging messages God may communicate to you. Hebrews chapter 4 assures us that God already knows all our thoughts and feelings and that Jesus has empathy for our messy human experience.
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” declares Hebrews 4:16.
In my book Wake Up to Wonder, I tell the story of a powerful encounter with a wondrous white horse that happened after I prayed with honest anguish. The plight of people caught up in Syria’s tragic civil war touched my heart, and I poured out an emotional prayer interceding for them. Sadness, frustration, and even anger tumbled out of my soul as I prayed. I wasn’t worried about offending God; instead, I poured out my heart to him like a friend. That prayer resulted in one of the most wondrous experiences of my life. I came away confident that God heard my prayer and cared deeply about it.
If you dare to engage in an honest conversation with our loving God, you’ll experience wonder in his presence.
Break Free from Formulas
Don’t worry about trying to follow any formula for praying or meditating. No one-size-fits-all formula exists; what works best for you may be different from what works well for others. Earlier in my life, I used all sorts of recommended prayer and meditation methods, only to discover one day when I didn’t have time for them that none were really necessary. Now I pray regularly yet informally as I go through each day and night.
Expand your perspective on what counts as prayer and meditation. Any time you’re focusing your energy on talking to, and listening to, God, that counts! You don’t need to speak holy-sounding words out loud when you pray. No problem if you can’t sit still or be quiet in meditation. Feel free to communicate with God in whatever ways come naturally to you. You can pray by singing or chanting, write your prayers down, or simply think them silently. You can meditate while doing housework, cooking a meal, or taking a nature hike. Enjoy trying out a variety of creative ways to communicate with God.
Isaiah 29:14 describes how God reaches out to people with wonder to motivate them to stop communicating with him in formulaic ways: “Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
God has no barriers to communicating with you, so remove any barriers you may put up yourself. Feel free to pray and meditate honestly from your heart instead of following formulas. Express yourself to the fullest – smile, laugh, cry, shout, etc. – and enjoy the freedom of being yourself in the presence of your Creator. You can trust God to meet you through any form of communication.
Communicate with God Anytime and Anywhere
You don’t have to wait for a “right” time or go to a special place to pray or meditate. While it’s helpful to block out distractions when possible so we can perceive God’s messages clearly, silence and solitude aren’t necessary. In Wake Up to Wonder, I describe how time I spent praying and meditating in a busy dentist’s office ended up leading to a miraculous intervention that saved two people from drowning thousands of miles away!
You can experience wonder anytime and anywhere – even in the busiest or most mundane situations – by praying and meditating. Sometimes, God will simply give you the wondrous gifts of peace or encouragement. At other times, God will work through you to do something extraordinary. You can always expect to discover wonder in some way whenever and wherever you communicate with God.
When and how can you incorporate prayer and meditation into your busy schedule on the go? Where are a few ordinary places you’d like to try praying or meditating?
Let Go of Agendas
God will always answer our prayers, but the answers he chooses may blow our agendas out of the way. God will always speak to us during meditation, but the messages he sends may surprise us. Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” We may think we know what’s best, but actually, our human perspectives are limited compared to God’s perspective on any situation. If we pray and meditate only for our own agendas, we limit the possibilities and potentially block the wonder of how God wants to answer.
God may have something in mind that goes beyond what you can predict – something even better than you can imagine. As I describe in Wake Up to Wonder, I spent 23 years asking God to convince my mom to join a church. I rationalized that since my agenda was surely something God wanted for Mom, as well, that eventually, it had to happen. Even though I knew that God wouldn’t interfere with Mom’s free will, I was so fixated on my agenda that I didn’t want to consider any other possibilities. As time passed without any noticeable progress toward my agenda, I became frustrated and discouraged to the point of tears. All along, however, God had a better plan. He assigned an angel to visit Mom about two months before she passed away. That encounter with wonder finally inspired Mom to trust God. While the agenda I’d prayed about for 23 years never happened (because Mom never joined a church), God’s agenda – which was more wonderful than what I expected – was fulfilled. Mom’s salvation happened even without my agenda working out.
By letting go of agendas when you pray and meditate, you can welcome wonder in any way God wants to send it to you! How can you let go right now of one agenda that you’ve been praying about, to stop limiting the wonder of how God may choose to surprise you?
Expect to Encounter the Wonder of God’s Presence with You
God will always show up whenever you decide to pray or meditate. God promises in Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Prayer and meditation can help you notice the wonder of God’s presence with you.
Start looking forward to awe-inspiring experiences of connecting with God while praying or meditating. When you see prayer and meditation habits as opportunities rather than obligations, you can enjoy the process of communicating with God. Instead of feeling like you have to pray and meditate regularly, you’ll want to do so!
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/AaronAmat
Whitney Hopler is author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.