It Takes Practice

Many of us grew up in church. I grew up in Churches of Christ. I am grateful for my heritage – I am grateful that I learned to love the Bible. I am grateful that I learned the value of study, simplicity in worship, and emphasis on Communion. I was raised by this church and they have loved me well.
I am also grateful for the spaces in which my spiritual imagination has been expanded. One of the ways I feel this imagination expanding most acutely is in the way I have come to understand the difference between a way of being in the world that turns to certainty, verses a way of being in the world that lives in tension. Another way to say that would be holding things loosely rather than holding them tightly. That is, I grew up thinking I needed to have the right answers to every question regarding God and the Bible, and I now understand that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t actually know. A life of faith means a willingness to hold loosely, allowing space for God to surprise us.

Related to this, I have begun to lean into new (actually, really ancient) prayer practices that spiritual teachers from the earliest centuries of Christianity have practiced and taught. With my “all the answers/faith of certainty” came a certain arrogance and a certain level of “this is just the way we do things,” which left little in the way of spiritual creativity. Thus, when we pray we say certain things and do it in certain ways. What I have discovered is a vast expanse of possibility when it comes to practicing prayer. And there is one way I have found particularly beautiful and powerful. It’s called the Jesus prayer:

“Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Or shortened:
“Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.”

Spiritual teachers suggest repeating this prayer, either in focused blocks of time or as a breath prayer (throughout the day). This is so different than what I grew up learning, and the beauty of prayer is that it is vast and expansive and there is room for us all. But if you find yourself longing to lean into sometime new, try it for a couple of weeks and see what happen.


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