Abiding in Prayer

A Bender Byte Moment

By Ron Bender © 2011

Maybe people that I teach struggle with learning to be still with Jesus.  When they get alone and quiet themselves for prayer they have trouble settling down.  Their bodies are antsy.  Their minds are restless and wander from one thought to another.  Many distractions seize hold of their attention, sidetracking them from connecting meaningfully with Jesus.

I can relate! People are often surprised to hear this. I have always been an active, energetic, productive person.  And that’s putting it mildly!  For years I was a workaholic, thriving on adrenaline and plagued with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. (You can read my story of recovery: Hurry Up and Be Still! and Slow Down for a Sabbath Rest.)

Learning to be quiet, still, and focused on Christ in my midst hasn’t come easy for me.  I had to learn to discipline myself to slow down and appreciate God’s Word to me. I had to heed the advice of the writer to Hebrews: “Be careful! Make every effort to enter God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:1, 11).

Abiding Prayer Helps us Be Still before God

Using short phrases from Scripture for “Abiding Prayer” has helped me to be still with Jesus and grow in his peace and power.  Marinating in some beloved words of the Bible helps me to grow deeper in my understanding of God and his life that he invites me into. It helps me to center myself in Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

As Jesus taught, I want to be like the grapevine branch that yields clusters of juicy grapes! The way to bear fruit, Jesus says, is to “abide” in, or remain interconnected with him and his words. Jesus is my Vine, the Father is my Gardener, and the Holy Spirit is the life of Christ flowing into me and through me so that I bear fruit for his kingdom (John 15:1-7).

We all want to bear good fruit in our lives, to make a positive difference by loving and helping other people. But Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We can’t bear fruit for God’s glory just by trying hard!  But neither can we bear fruit by doing nothing! Jesus could have also said, “If you do nothing it will be apart from me.” That’s the same thing as Jesus saying, “Abide in me.”

Abiding Prayer is a way to work at resting in God’s grace. We start by praying Scripture in intensive “quiet times.” And this helps us to learn to interact with and rely on Christ with us as we do whatever we’re doing.

While driving my car or listening to a friend or writing this article now I remind myself to appreciate God’s goodness, submit to his will, listen to the Spirit, and share the love of Christ.

You can appreciate Christ with you teaching and loving you right now as you read these words… Just shoot up a little “arrow prayer”:

Father, I long to live in communion with you… Jesus, teach me to pray… Holy Spirit I rely on you now…

Being in tune with Christ and walking with him as we do whatever we’re doing is what gives us the capacity to bless others naturally, joyfully, and for God’s glory (not our own).

Pray Scripture Deeply

“Abiding Prayers” are simple, and yet profound, Bible-based prayers that help us to trust and follow Christ as his disciples.

Abiding Prayer is a way to pray Scripture deeply by focusing on the words in quiet prayer, slowly repeating them to yourself over and over. As you turn God’s Word over in your mind you “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). With the Psalmist you open your heart to the Lord and you open yourself to hear his invitation: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

When you go into quiet prayer to still your body and calm your mind you will experience inevitable antsiness and distractions – don’t get troubled by them!  The point of Abiding Prayer is to keep re-centering your focus to the Bible phrase you’re meditating on and applying to your life.

By prayerfully reflecting on and re-centering yourself on a short, beloved phrase of Scripture you can tune out the worries and distractions in your mind and tune into God’s peace.  You can let the inspired words of God seep down from your mind into your heart (which is your will) so that you will formed more into the image of Christ.

In Abiding Prayer we’re doing “soul work” to more fully submit our will to God’s will and to follow Christ wholeheartedly in daily life.

Join the Selah of the Psalmist

Something like Abiding Prayer goes back to the forming of the Hebrew Psalter, a thousand years before Christ.  In the Psalms we often see short prayers repeated over and over like “His love endures forever” or “Lord, have mercy.”

Also, 71 times in the Psalms – often in the middle of a sentence! – we find the word, “Selah.”  This word was inserted into the Psalms by the prayer masters who taught the people of Israel to pray the Psalms of David.  “Selah” probably means something like, “Pause to reflect and pray.”

Selah… Right in the middle of the Psalm – as it was being read or sung – a sacred space was made to be still and quiet before the Lord, to abide in God’s presence.

Selah…

Abide in Prayer for Others

Most of us when we intercede in prayer for others describe their needs and make specific petitions to God on their behalf, often going into great detail.  Of course, this is a good way to pray!

Another way to intercede for someone is to use a verse or phrase of Scripture to abide in prayer for them. Praying Scripture for others helps us to form effective prayers and to stay focused.  And it’s a peaceful, enjoyable way of participating in  intercessory prayer.

To abide in prayer for someone else is to hold him or her in God’s presence, praying for him or her to be as the branch abiding in the Christ-vine, tended by our loving Father, and bearing fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Use Your Imagination

Many people find it helpful to imagine a Scripture as they’re praying. Imbedded in our language are symbols and metaphors.  The Bible is full of pictorial images and illustrations.  Imaging the Scripture you’re praying helps you to keep your mind focused and appreciative of God’s wisdom and grace.  When you’re mind wanders you can use the Biblical image to help re-focus your mind on your prayer and take God’s Word deeper into your heart and soul.

For instance in meditating on Psalm 23 it’s easy to visualize the scenes! I visualize the Lord as my Shepherd and myself as his sheep and I follow along with the the imagery imbedded in this wonderful Psalm.  I pray, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” and I picture Jesus as my Shepherd and myself as his sheep… I’m happy to be near him in his green pasture… I drink from his still waters… I follow him on his path…

Praying God’s Word to abide in Christ in this way gives me peace and power to love others effectively.

Practice God’s Presence

Try practicing Abiding Prayer in silence and solitude for five minutes or so at the beginning of your day to settle yourself in God’s presence.  It’s best to do this in a quiet corner of your home or in a beautiful nature setting, but you can even learn to do this while you’re getting ready in the morning, driving your car, or waiting somewhere. By immersing your consciousness in Christ and submitting to his kingdom you can set his peace as a guard over your heart and prepare yourself to share his love with others.

As the word of God dwells in you richly and deeply it will help you to carry it with you all day! (Colossians 3:16-17). During the day you can briefly come back to your Abiding Prayer as often as you can remember. In the midst of whatever you’re doing just shoot up a little “arrow prayer.”  (That’s what Ray Ortlund called it when he discipled me.) In this way you can learn little-by-little to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and to “practice the presence of God.”

Learning to do whatever we’re doing with an appreciation of Christ loving us, guiding us, and empowering us is the secret to a fruitful life.

Let’s Abide Now!

There are dozens of Abiding Prayers that I’ve used to get settled and centered in Christ.  They are simple, compelling phrases (or paraphrases) from the Bible.

Many people that I have worked with in therapy or spiritual mentoring or taught in seminars or on retreats have found that prayers like these help them to rest in Christ and to do the soul work that is needed for them to be formed into the image of Christ.

Let’s try a few Abiding Prayers now! (You may want to print this article out and go to a quiet place so you can be undistracted and give at least a few minutes to praying.)

You might practice warming up yourself for prayer by focusing on your bodily posture before God. It greatly helps to engage your mind and heart on God when you’re intentional about putting your body into your prayer.

Sit comfortably…  Relax…

You may want to let your rhythm of breathing in and out be a prayer…

You may want to hold out your hands to receive from the Lord…

Breathe in God’s Peace

Hear the word of God to the Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

You probably know this prayer. But did you know that it’s context in Psalm 46 is war and devastation?  That’s the real test of our peace – can we rest in God’s care in the midst of distress and pain?

Let’s so some soul work and practice being still in Christ’s presence now. Consider something that you’re scared or anxious about… Name this to the Lord…  Picture yourself in that situation…

Then sloooowly pray God’s Word to yourself as a “Simplifying Breath Prayer”:

Be still and know that I am God…

Be still and know that I AM…

Be still and know…

Be still…

Be…

Focus on Jesus

A favorite prayer of mine is “Jesus… be the center.” This prayer is based on Matthew 17:6-8 (MSG), “The disciples saw Jesus, only Jesus,” and Matthew 21:9 (NLT), “Jesus was in the center.”

It’s a simple prayer that says it all! Gently repeat this prayer to yourself: “Jesus… be the center”

It’s helpful to use a prayer like this to “Watch and pray” that Jesus would be your focus and your desire in the activities of the day ahead. Consider your schedule and pray: “As I _________, Jesus… be the center.”

Submit to God

Jesus prayed on the cross: “Father… into your hands I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:5 & Luke 23:46)…

Try offering this prayer to submit the parts of yourself and your life to God: “Father… into your hands I commit my ________…” (e.g., thoughts… desires… health… relationships… dreams)

Remember we can also abide in prayer for others. Intercede for people the Lord brings to your mind: “Father… into your hands I commit __(name)__”

More Abiding Prayers from the Bible

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [or woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But some Scriptures seem to be especially anointed to minister God’s grace to us!

Read Breath Prayers from the Bible for more examples of Scripture based abiding prayers.

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Thank you!

Ron

Ronald Bender- President/CEO Bender Consulting.~http://www.benderbytes.net/bender_consult

 

 

Jesus Loves You


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