On Prayer and Resolutions
As we enter the new year, I find myself thinking about personal resolutions that would help me to live a healthier, happier life. I want to grow as a person, but recognize that I have a limited amount of time. I am wary, yet hopeful, that I can find realistic ways to nourish my mind, body, and spirit in 2017. Recognizing our busy schedules, I’d like to share with you a few thoughts about nourishing our spirits through faith.
Being a practical person, I find the methods of John Wesley and the Methodists helpful in identifying resolutions I have a fighting chance of succeeding at. Just as we might tend to our physical selves by choosing one small step to begin with (drink more water, eat more vegetables, eat just half the gallon of ice cream while watching Netflix rather than the whole thing….) we can choose one spiritually nurturing practice (or Means of Grace) to start with, too. Methodists divide the Means of Grace into two broad categories: works of piety and works of mercy. Each of these categories has both private and public practices.
Prayer, a work of piety that is often individual, or private, is a great starting point for New Year’s resolutions of a spiritual nature. Being a working mom also taking a grad school class, I am fairly certain that attempting a lofty goal of 30 minutes per day of silent prayer is a set up for failure. But, there are ways I can incorporate prayer into my daily activities. Here are a few I think may be doable for busy families like mine:
- Pray in the car: Many parents I know find that some of the best conversations happen in the car. As you discuss the highs and lows of the day, make a point of asking if there is anyone in particular who has a need. Pray for that person together as you drive. As you pass police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, say a prayer for victims and first responders. A simple “God, please help the person in that car” is sufficient to focus on hearts on God and others.
- Pray at a meal: Our family tradition is to share joys and concerns before we pray together, “For food in a world where many walk in hunger, for friends in a world where many walk alone, for faith in a world where many walk in fear, we give you humble thanks, dear God.” A great list of other short, meaningful mealtime prayers can be found on the Building Faith website.
- Choose an object to remind you to pray: A zipper can remind us to pray for divided people to be brought together. Water can remind us to give thanks for being baptized as a beloved child of God. Our front doors can be a reminder to give thanks for shelter. Consider choosing one object per week as a prayer reminder. You may soon find that you are praying all throughout the day!
- Pray as you breathe: If you only have a moment in the carpool line, pray a repeated phrase as you breathe in and out. Create your own short prayer, or try one of these: “Come, Lord Jesus.” “Here I am.” “Lord, have mercy.” “Grant us peace.” Breath prayers can be helpful tool to teach children to use when they are approaching melt-down mode, too.
- Pray with technology: I recommend several apps and websites that provide guided prayers for adults. The Daily Office from Mission St Clare offers prayers for morning, noon, and night. Pray as You Go offers a free .mp3 meditation for download. My Quiet Spaces website offers prayers, discussion and reflection for women. Lastly, check out the Northbrook UMC Facebook page for Prayers of the Week.
I find that starting with a small, achievable goal for spiritual growth gives me strength and encouragement to keep setting small goals, which lead to larger transformation in my life. Prayer is one of those practices that helps me to find meaning in a crowded schedule, nurtures feelings of peace, and encourages me to be more grateful throughout the day.
Wishing you a blessed New Year,