The Covid-19 virus and its ever-changing impact on our daily lives understandably has many of us experiencing an increase in anxiety. We’re seeing and experimenting ourselves with a variety of responses to that anxiety, most along a spectrum from denial to hyper-vigilance. Keeping perspective and enacting common sense guidelines is fundamental in this time.
It’s also true that Jesus promised a quality of peace that deeply sustains the heart, regardless of life’s circumstances. As Jesus foretold his death to his closest disciples who’d given everything to join his ministry, he steadied them with this promise:
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." - John 14:27
Christ-followers through the centuries have clung to this promise in turbulent times, many employing a variety of spiritual practices to help open them to receive it. I’ll mention 3 here.
This is the practice that many of us have already begun adopting as our “Take Up” practice during Lent. Guidance for its use can be found here.
The prayer of Examen begins with a gratitude practice, helping to draw our mind from fear to what is good even in an unsettling time. We are invited to remember and trust in God’s goodness to us. The prayer of Examen then centers on helping us to notice when in each day our hearts move both closer and farther away from God. Noticing that movement of heart does many things for us, including training us in the practice of drawing close in ways that settle us down internally in confidence of God’s nearness and love.
Silent Prayer/Centering Prayer
For those who heard Ken Shigematsu’s message at The River in early January, you may remember that this was one of the core practices that Ken commended to us. It is the simple (but not easy!) practice of being with God in silence for a set amount of time each day (10-20 minutes). People usually choose a sacred word -- like “Peace,” for example, or “Jesus” -- to anchor themselves in the time. As thoughts distract, as they always will and usually again and again, the invitation is to return gently to the silence with the sacred word. There’s a Centering Prayer App for the phone which offers helpful short readings to begin and end with and sets a timer for you so you don’t have to check the clock.
In his book Survival Guide for the Soul, Ken says, “Silent prayer leads to a powerful change in the way we inhabit the world because it grows our capacity to pay attention to our Creator, even when we are not consciously praying.” (p. 77) Silent or centering prayer, like all spiritual practices, invites us to trust the process of God’s activity. As we give our attention -- however scattered -- to God, God enlarges our ability to experience God’s steadying presence throughout the day.
Ask for Prayer
So many of us suffer alone and fail to reach for the resource we have in one another. Many of us are only a text, email, or phone call away from receiving prayer that can help us connect to God’s peace. Let’s rely on each other and experience the great gift of being grafted into God’s family during this season.