Monday, January 25, 2021

ADULTS & YOUTH: Mindful Prayer

It seems that life is getting more and more stressful and people are dealing with a lot of anxiety. I've found that my anxiety has risen over the past 5 years with the changes (or lack of needed changes) in politics, the pandemic, and the world's seeming addiction to social media that seems to easily trigger emotions. My blood pressure was rising. 

It also seems that people have time for Yoga or meditation, but not for thoughtful prayer or reading of Scripture. If you ask your pastor, he will most likely tell you that Yoga and/or meditation are not a good idea and suggest you pray more, but many people will tell you that they do pray. They ask God to relieve their stress and fix their problems and the world. "God's not listening!" Yes, He is, but God likes to work on each of us from the inside out. He's not going to change the world to suit each one of us, but He does say, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

To help myself, I developed this practice, have been doing it for the past few weeks and my blood pressure is going down so I'm passing it on. I call it Mindful Prayer and it's really about taking the time to slow down and speak to the Lord, who is always listening. It can be done in the morning to begin your day or anytime throughout the day if you feel stress.

Here's how Mindful Prayer works:

Before You Begin

  • Sit in a comfortable straight backed chair. Don't cross your legs.
  • Take a deep breath (in through the nose and out through the mouth) and slowly let it out. Take another. Just doing that you'll feel yourself starting to relax.
  • Give yourself permission to take this time to be with the Lord. The kids are fine, your spouse is fine, and you are fine.

Release Your Anxiety

  • Sometimes when we're under stress we don't take full breaths. As you breathe, breathe deeply and slowly. Paying attention to your breathing helps your body relax. Inhale, hold, exhale. Relax your body from your feet up.
  • Think about where you’re holding stress in your body. I hold stress in my shoulders. Try to loosen that area.
  • When we have stress or anxiety it’s often due to a feeling of being out of control. We feel a loss of the ability to control what's going on around us. Our two greatest stressors right now are the leadership of our country and the pandemic which have a great effect on our family or personal life. Remind yourself that God is in control. Say it out loud. "Lord, I know you are with me and will never leave me. Thank you for your constant love. You are in control. 
  • Think about each thing in your life that gives you stress and give it to God. For each thing say (sometimes it helps to say it out loud): 
“Lord, I’m feeling anxiety/overwhelmed/stress about __________________. I worry about this because _______________. Forgive me, Lord, for not trusting you. I give it to you now. Send your Spirit to increase my faith and bring me Your peace. Thy will be done.”

Focus on the Word

Spend some time focusing on the Word. Start a program to read the Bible in a year or choose a book and read a chapter a day. Bible Gateway has somebody who will read the section to you whether it’s a few verses or whole chapters. 
  • While you listen, keep breathing, focus on what’s being said and don’t allow anxiety to enter your body. If your mind wanders, bring it back. 
  • Pray: “Open my heart to your Word, Lord. Show me what you want me to learn about You and myself.”
  • Close your eyes and listen to the reading. 
  • After the reading, pray about what you’ve heard and learned. Pray for yourself and others. 
  • Thank the Lord for this time with Him. Amen. 
  • Notice how calm and relaxed you feel! Do this multiple times a week and you'll notice long-term changes in your outlook toward life and the stress of life will lessen. The WORD OF GOD IS POWERFUL to relieve anxiety.
Here is a downloadable reminder of the steps above. I keep mine near the chair I sit in every morning to do this. Here is also a prayer card that can help you focus your prayers.