When I become quiet, still, seeking the simplicity of face to face, heart to heart encounter with God, my mind leaps into the void. It feels like a cage full of monkey's on crack. I told this recently to a group of university students who I've been teaching to pray contemplatively, and one of them blurted out, "And they're all throwing poo." It often feels just like that. My thoughts crowding in, pushing, chattering, hollering, and yes, throwing poo.
So, when I enter the silence, seeking God, I do what Christians throughout the ages have done when facing the same inner chaos. I simply speak the Name of Jesus over and over again in my heart. I join the Name to my breathing, which, in the biblical tradition, is linked to the Spirit. This accords with the teaching of Jesus that we are to keep our words simple and not go babbling like those who think that by their many words they'll be heard by God (Matthew 6.7).
This repitition is no dull ritual. The Name of Jesus is a prayer itself. And through the recitation of the Name, I draw these maverick thoughts down into my heart, where Christ himself awaits me (Ephesians 3.17-19).
The beauty is this . . . I can do this anywhere. In solitude before dawn, when the house is quiet. As I'm showering and shaving. While eating, driving, typing this little reflection, even leading a meeting or while in a conversation. The Name, joined to my breath, begins to become a habitual prayer, a way of keeping my core alive to Christ, and a way to live out St Paul's instruction: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5.17).
Intention: Today, I'll put the Name of Jesus upon the inner lips of my heart. I'll join my mind with my heart around the Name, and one by one I'll invite my maverick thoughts to rest before their Lord and mine. It won't happen all at once, but this is a start of a whole new way of being.