For Lent this year, my primary focus was prayer. At the start of the season, I ran across this quote and it rang so true:“When I go aside in order to pray, I find my heart unwilling to approach God; and when I tarry in prayer my heart is unwilling to abide in Him. Therefore, I am compelled first to go pray to God to move my heart into Himself, and when I am in Him, I pray that my heart remain in Him.” -John Bunyan
The Lord graciously revealed these tools to help move through my unwilling heart.
Always very curious about a rosary, it’s function, and why people are so attached to them, I made my own (instructions here). Not bound by any rules, I decided to pray the following verses for each of the beads:
The Cross: The Lord’s PrayerInvitatory Bead: Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Cruciform Beads: Psalm 25:4-5 Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. The Weeks: Psalm 103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
I sought to say the verses while meditating on them– when I found I was reciting robotically, I would return to the last bead remembered and continue from there. Admittedly, sometimes it would take a while just to get through the Lord’s Prayer, especially at the beginning when my mind was so undisciplined. Sometimes it would take 2 times through to slow my mind enough to pray. The most profound moments in prayer occurred with this tool…not because of what it is but of what it required of my mind. Furthermore, praying the verses above taught Scripture prayer in a deeper way, making quite an impact on less-structured prayers throughout the day.
Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions
This book served a similar function as the rosary: helping focus my mind. The Old English cannot simply be scanned but each word must be read. Also, the prayers reach right to the clouded heart, exposing doubt, self-righteousness, and pride. With those laid bare, praying seemed to flow. Flowing prayer was a totally new experience for me. Additionally, with the heart transparent, I was removed from the same rote words and phrases I tend to use and was brought into a place of more meaningful prayers. For example, a section of the Morning prayer read:“O ever watchful Shepherd, lead, guide, tend me this day; Without thy restraining rod I err and stray; Hedge up my path lest I wander into unwholesome pleasure and drink its poisonous streams…”
Immediately, it was impressed on me (on a deeper level) that He is the shepherd of my mind/heart. Turning to and quickly devouring Psalm 23, it read in a way I had never known it, though I had memorized it years ago. Like someone opened a window and a warm, refreshing breeze blew in, transporting me out of the stale room I sat. Beautiful.
During Lent, I read The Quotidian Mysteries (a wonderful read!) and this quote stirred my mind:
“Each day brings with it the necessity of renewal of our love of and in God.”
With the idea of manna as the Bread of Life (and my daily necessity), I looked up various related verses and logged them in a word web structure. In the mornings, this sheet would help clear the groggy fog, guiding those early prayers.
So very thankful for these tools. This experience in prayer has left me enamored, though I feel like I’m just ankle-deep in the very depths of our God.“O fountain of all good, Destroy in me every loft thought, Break pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds, Annihilate each clinging shred of Self-righteousness, Implant in me true lowliness of spirit, … Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling For my God; Then can the Father take up his abode in me,…” (from Valley of Vision– prayer The Great God)