Today a group of 10 ladies gathered for the beginning of a six week journey in prayer…..specifically a particular kind of prayer called “centering prayer”. It is done entirely in silence, focused yet yielded, individually or in a group. Several of us had attended a workshop on this prayer method in June together in Alabama and had decided we’d like to start a group here in Bay County to gather together to share and encourage one another in this prayer method.
In this prayer method, after a devotional beginning time, one uses a “sacred word” (for which she has prayed) that serves as a point of focus. If thoughts intrude and attempt to distract, one repeats the sacred word and brings the focus back to simply being in the presence of God. When I had initially attended the workshop, I used “trust” as my sacred word.
Yesterday as I thought about attending today’s group, the word “give” kept coming to my mind. I shook it aside. Today when I arrived at the location and entered the room, I felt “give” strongly again. It was a bit annoying to me. I thought to myself, “Really, God? Don’t I give enough of my time, resources, energy……my life?????? Can’t I just have something for ME????”
For the last couple of months I have experienced fatigue to an extent I have rarely experienced in the past. By the end of the day I am exhausted. Most nights I sleep well, but I seldom awaken refreshed. I have been told by several people recently how tired I looked. One friend at church commented a couple of Sundays ago that she had a heart attack a few years ago and her ONLY symptom had been fatigue. That, and an increased incidence of headaches, sent me to my family practice physician for a physical. She ordered bloodwork, took an extensive family and personal medical history, talked to me about a variety of minor issues, adjusted some medication and supplements and sent me to a cardiologist for an evaluation.
In the last week, in addition to the bloodwork, I’ve had an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, an exercise stress test, and an aortic ultrasound. In a couple of weeks I will meet with the cardiologist to discuss the results, but so far there is little that is remarkable. I’m also scheduled for an evaluation and update to the CPAP respiratory therapy for sleep apnea that I do nightly. One counselor friend who knows my activities and lifestyle told me I was a poster child for burnout.
So……when God said “Give” was the sacred word I was to use, I protested. But even though I mentally protested I was obedient and used that word. After our 20 minutes of silent prayer time, laying aside intruding thoughts and seeking to simply be in God’s presence by returning again and again to that word, we ended the prayerful silence and we watched a brief video from a group that promotes this practice, Contemplative Outreach. The video of Father Carl Arico is entitled, “It All Begins with Saying Yes.” In the video he said that the essence of this ancient prayer practice is one consenting to God’s presence. Then he said that those have practiced centering prayer learn to “give ‘self’ to God” and simply rest in God’s presence. God desires to give himself to us through this quiet prayer time. Our attitude should simply be one of “Be it done unto me as thou desire…” (from Mary’s Magnificat and the response of others who submitted themselves entirely to God’s will.)
All of a sudden I laughed out loud. God had not been calling me to give more of myself in ministry or other activities of service to others. He was simply inviting me to give myself to Him in this time and practice of prayer……to simply BE in His presence without any effort or activity required on my own behalf or on behalf of anyone else….. to allow Him to give me His Presence. The ten women had a good discussion sharing our experience of the prayer time and our thoughts about embarking on this journey together. I left happy, relaxed, and energized. I felt better than I have in months.
The following week as I prayed for my focus word for our group prayer time, the word that came to me again and again was “gift”…. I smiled and realized that God was revealing to me that in this practice of centering prayer, He is both the Giver and the Gift.
I have my timer (20 minute sessions), my comfortable place to sit quietly, and my sacred word. I will give God the time that He desires me to spend with Him morning and evening……I think I’ve found the prescription for my fatigue.