Here is the third in a series relating our thoughts to the practice of unceasing prayer, the intentional awareness of God in each moment. It follows two other posts, The daily thought parade, and Unceasing prayer is no pious exaggeration.

So, standing there, water splashing down upon my head, baptizing me anew, I tried a little experiment. I gathered all these thoughts down into my heart. I made my heart a sanctuary and invited my mind to come to full attention before Jesus Christ. From that center, the chapel of my heart—where that ruffian horde of preoccupations and distractions were no longer in charge—I simply gave myself to the moment. I reveled in the clean smell of lavender soap, the holiness of nakedness, the too-easily-missed glory of thousands of little beads of water, reflecting the morning’s light, running in golden rivulets down the glass door of my shower stall. It was prayer. I was ecstatic, alive to the goodness of God, to God above all, and to myself, fully present to it all.

The command to “pray without ceasing” is not an exaggeration or an experience only for monks and mountain mystics. All of us think without ceasing . . . no exceptions. The mind never shuts off. And if that’s true, we can pray without ceasing. For at heart, prayer helps us to take charge of our thoughts. Prayer helps us resist being defined by our thoughts. Prayer helps us stay put in the present, in real life, alert to the seductions of those thoughts that want to carry us away into illusion, fantasy, and anxiety. Alert to God, we draw those ruffians down into the chapel of the heart where they swear their allegiance to Jesus Christ, and then, put in their rightful place, re-ordered and realigned, our thoughts can do what they are meant to do: help us live life rather than fret over it.

Thinking is as routine as breathing. Spiritual awareness awakens you to the fact that you don’t have to follow your thoughts where they want to lead.

A re-posting from November 11, 2009