Walk, journal, seek silence and other ways to reflect, reason and think deeply.
Posted in , Jul 9, 2021
Have we forgotten how to think?
We read. We listen. We absorb information. But do we think? Do we even remember how?
We’ve grown accustomed to near-constant stimulation—TV shows, movies, radio broadcasts, podcasts, video games, audiobooks, tweets, texts, notifications. But such stimuli seldom, if ever, encourage real thought. More often than not, we receive input without reflection.
This deluge is one more reason to pray. Especially now. Because thinking is one of the many fruits of prayer.
Here is how prayer practices encourage deep, careful and original thought:
When was the last time you heard someone say, “I need to be alone with my thoughts”? That phrase underscores solitude’s value. By following the wisdom and invitation of Jesus to “go off by ourselves to a quiet place” (Mark 6:31 NLT), we find the time and space to think…for a change.
Does noise of some kind fill your every waking moment? Just a few minutes of silence in our days can stop the cacophony that drowns out our own thoughts and God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 KJV).
Our lives these days are similar to the stormy ride the disciples took on the Sea of Galilee, which yielded little thought besides fear and panic until Jesus spoke: “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39 KJV). When we stop and are still—even for a few moments—our thoughts can take shape in ways they would never be able to amid all of our motion and commotion.
When I go on walks and the occasional hike, I’m amazed at how many of my fellow walkers and hikers are wearing headphones. What a missed opportunity! Walking loosens the gears of mind and heart, helping us, with God’s help, reflect carefully and think clearly.
Eli instructed the young Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9 NIV). Active, expectant listening is one of the most fruitful ways a person can pray. Sometimes I’ll echo Samuel’s prayer. Other times I’ll ask God a question, and then—very important—I’ll stop talking and, like the psalmist, wait for the Lord until a new (and often surprising) answer comes.
Pandemics permitting, I’ve taken an annual prayer retreat at a monastery for decades. I always bring a journal and a favorite pen. In the silence and stillness, ideas, dreams and prayers fill the journal pages. I often marvel at the thoughts that come to me.
Maybe you’re a better thinker than I am—a pretty safe assumption. Maybe you haven’t noticed as much input without reflection in your own life. But what if these practices, coupled with the power and presence of God, can make you a clearer, sharper, more creative and original thinker? Isn’t it worth a try?
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