There is hope, even for the most distressed and distracted among us.
Posted in , Jun 27, 2022
I received an email recently from someone I’ve never met—as far as I know. Her name was Joan, and she apparently reads my posts on this site or is familiar with my writing on the subject of prayer in books or elsewhere. In any case, she emailed a heartfelt plea. Just eight words: “Please help me to get quiet and pray.”
That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Our modern ways of life seem to fill every waking moment with a cacophony of noise and clamor. Even when the clamor subsides, our minds race and rage with worry and fear, doubts and distractions. How are we supposed to “get quiet and pray” when everything around us—and inside us—seems to conspire against it?
As Jesus said, “Be of good cheer” (John 16:33 KJV). There is hope, even for the most distressed and distracted among us:
1) Come apart. Jesus invited His first followers to “come apart” with Him, not in the sense of unraveling but in the sense of getting away, going to somewhere quiet, private, even secluded (Mark 6:31). It’s not always possible, sure, but when it is, seek out a corner or cave, a park bench or church pew and settle in.
2) Close your eyes. There’s a reason most of us learned to shut our eyes when we pray. It helps to quiet us, to shut out distractions, to send our brain a signal that we’re entering a different, quieter place.
3) Slow your breathing. Before you start to chatter, concentrate on your breathing. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, then exhale through your mouth. Do this three times or more, until you feel your heart rate slow and your muscles relax.
4) Rock. Just as babies are soothed by being rocked, people of all ages can feel their minds, hearts, bodies and spirits quiet as they rock. Whether in a rocking chair or not, rocking has therapeutic effects; the combination of motions involved in rocking can relax muscles, ease back pain, slow your heart rate and lessen anxiety and depression. If you have a rocking chair, use it; if not, rock anyway.
5) Hum. Humming also has the power to focus and calm the human mind, soul and body—especially if you quietly hum a favorite hymn or worship song. Humming regulates your breathing and heartbeat and helps you enter into a quieter state.
6) Tap. Believe it or not, studies have shown that tapping decreases cortisol (the stress hormone). “Tapping?” you say. Yes, tapping. It may sound strange, but gently tapping your temple, chin or collarbone can decrease your stress and slow down your racing mind and heart to the speed of quiet.
Will these steps help you to “get quiet and pray?” I hope so. In fact, I pray so. Try it, and let me know in the comments how it went.