As the Christmas season was drawing to a close, I had the most unusual experience – a gift from God that only He could have given me. I can remember MANY years when the night before the end of the holiday season was horrible and the first day back to work was even worse. I often questioned whether or not taking time off was a good idea because the stress of ramping back up to go back to work was so painful (almost physical at times). Don’t get me wrong, I really love my job so the pain was not about returning to a workplace or situation I hated. The pain was about going from a more peaceful, quiet, relaxed existence to a stressed out, irritating, and time focused work experience. I know that those of you who are mothers of school aged children may have a different experience, just waiting for your kids to go back to school after the holidays so that things will calm down and get back to “normal.” But for me, the holiday break is usually a time to chill.
I noticed a BIG difference this year. My calendar is just as full this January as it has ever been, but things are different. My attitude is different. My level of stress is different because I am not worrying as much about the future. Oh, there are things I could be worrying about, but God seems to have calmed me down – something that I never would have predicted. Thank you Jesus!!!
I don’t think this change happened suddenly. I think it’s been coming on for quite a while – sneaking up on me quietly in the peaceful moments of my prayer time with the Lord. God promises us “peace that passes all understanding” (Phillipians 4:7), but I don’t think that I was ever in a place to accept that peace until I allowed myself to sit with Him, in prayer, on a regular basis, and just be still.
Prayer is not always about talking with God. Some of the most powerful “prayer” is experienced when we simply sit with God without an agenda, allowing Him to quietly mold and shape our hearts and minds. This is often called contemplative prayer and it has been practiced for centuries by monks and nuns, priests and pastors, and people working in offices, factories, stores and homes all over the world. They have reported dramatic changes in their lives and attitudes that they did not accomplish through their own power.
I’ve been trying to practice contemplative prayer a few times a week for the last few years. It’s not easy – especially at first or when restarting after some sort of break (like having family in town over the holidays!!). I’m an action-oriented person and I don’t like just sitting. Calming my mind so that it’s not racing with thoughts………that is often really hard. I think God has patience with us and knows that being still with Him is not easy for us. I realized this Christmas season that He has acknowledged our time together by giving me the gift of greater stillness throughout my life, not just in our times of prayer. Only God can give grant us this gift and I think it is key to him fulfilling His promise to give us “life abundantly” (John 10:10).