Lesson 1: Learn to be in God’s presence
1.1 Prayer: exertion or enjoyment?
You ’ld love to pray more, but you can’t really achieve it. You long so much to be silent, but it doesn’t happen. Even though you yearn for it, because you really want þto live in the presence of God, in a conscious way.This book will help you discover a way of praying that’s about seeking and experiencing the presence of God, more than praying with a lot of words. About being quiet more than about talking. About recreating in prayer more than exerting yourself.
1.2 Silence please?
To reach this, silence is important. You’re probably familiar with my experience, that finding silence isn’t easy. I write this in a period when we all came to a halt. But even when you are at home a lot, you can still feel restless. It can be helpful just to sit down for a while, and listen to a beautiful song. Or to go for a short walk alone. These certainly are ways to search God’s presence.
But this course is mostly about a calming approach to finding God’s presence. Over the next few weeks – when you actively continue using this book – you will become familiar with three different ways of praying, that will help you seek and experience the presence of God.
1.3 Three forms of prayer
I’ll mention the three approaches here already. In the next lessons you will read more about it and also practise with it:
- Praying with Scripture (also: lectio divina): you spend time with one single short Bible text in a way that brings you to silence, to rest in the presence of God.
- The Jesus prayer: you calmly repeat a prayer sentence for some time, this will help you focus your attention on the presence of God in the here and now.
- Centering prayer: a way of praying completely focussed on silence, in which you have only one word you can return to again and again whenever you notice your mind wandering elsewhere.
I also want to introduce to you the word ‘contemplation’. This will be discussed in the next lesson.
Each lesson contains two questions for reflection. I invite you to honestly take the time to think about these questions. It might be helpful for you to write some things down.
1. What do you desire when it comes to improving your praying? What do you hope this period will offer you?
2. How much time do you want to take daily to spend on this course? And how are you going to make sure this time actually will be reserved in your diary?
Every lesson you also get an exercise: something you can do, and practice directly. This time I ask you to listen with all your attention to the song ‘Still, my soul, be still’.
First take a seat, get quiet for a moment, and choose to pay full attention to the lyrics of the song. When you have listened to the song, ask yourself: which sentence really speaks to me? And what is it that causes this?
It’s always inspiring to read wise and encouraging words of others about praying. Every lesson I will share such a (shorter or longer) statement. The one here is from St. Augustine, it is very short, but beckons you to take them into your heart deeply:
Whole prayer is nothing but love.