The K.I.S.S. of Prayer (Keep It Simple Stupid): Be Still!
You probably don’t know this about me, but I have a gift. It’s the gift of taking something simple and making it complicated! That’s why I must constantly remind myself of the K.I.S.S. method of prayer: keep it simple stupid! For example, who chooses to take two years (and counting) to study the first eight words of Psalm 46:10? Who does that? Me!
That said, today I have no shortage of themes from Psalm 46:10 to write about or anecdotes to share. Some of the insights I’ve gained—especially when examining the original languages and exploring ancient biblical history–have provided some very profound insights. Sometimes though, returning to the basics is best. Simple is good. Less is more. So, for today’s post, I simply want to keep it simple by once again taking a closer look at the word “still” of my favorite verse of Scripture.
Be still! The Heart of Nexus Prayer.
Those familiar with the five steps of nexus prayer will recall that the heart of Psalm 46:10 are the first words: “be still”. In ancient Hebrew it is transliterated into English as:
So, it is the first words of Psalm 46:10 – harpu – (be still) that I want to focus on today.
We know from the context of Psalm 46 that this admonition from God was literally a command to Israel to drop their weapons when threatened (as most biblical scholars believe) by King Sennacherib’s army. Likewise, we, too, are to drop everything in the face of all our enemies and battles of modern day life, and God will do the fighting (and win the victory) for us.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
But what do those two words mean for us today? How are they to be applied to our lives? What does it mean for us to truly be still? To help you answer that question, consider the following top 25 definitions of “be still”, then add your own:
To let go
To be dumb (quiet)
To hold peace
To quiet oneself
To be silent
To let drop
To thoroughly make whole
To shut up
To drop everything
To let alone
To cease fighting
To drop what you are holding in your hands
To let loose
To cast down
To be relaxed
To make no effort
To be without anxiety
To worry not
To stop doing and start being
To stop processing, talking, bragging, thinking, daydreaming, worrying, planning, plotting, and gently let go of all of our thoughts, distractions, sounds, memories, sins, problems, worries and fears, and just be still…and know that I am God.
To use the well-known and popular phrase, we are to: “Let go, and let God.” Enough said. Ready to begin? The nexus prayer can be learned and practiced in as little as 5 minutes a day.
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 Photo Credit: “Falling Leaf” by Marko Blažević | Public Domain via Unsplash | Used and modified with permission by Nexus Prayer International.
If Americans are nothing else, we are a nation of busy people. Ask anyone you know, “Hey, how are you doing?” and the answer you’ll most often receive may not be “I’m fine,” but instead, “I’m busy!” Worse yet, ask them how often they pray–even devout Christians—and the reply you’ll receive all too often is, “I’m too busy to pray.”
If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy.”
~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Indeed, as Kevin DeYoung in his book, Crazy Busy,1 points out, the average American works more and rests less than people in other developed nations; we’re not only stressed out, but also stressing out our kids; and we’re not getting enough sleep. No surprise there. But what is surprising is that although most of us pride ourselves in our ability to multi-task, the truth is our brain is literally not capable of multi-tasking. (Maybe that’s why James reminds us that “A double-minded person is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8 ) Instead, scientists tell us that what we refer to as multi-tasking is actually switch-tasking2. Call it what you will, but with most of us trying to juggle our work schedules, school schedules, raising children, daily chores and errands, church activities, and commuting–not to mention all the time we spend on our devices, social media, and watching TV, well, you get the picture. Add to all that the fact that the computer in our head is processing more than 70,000 thoughts per day,3 and I’m certain you’ll agree that we’re a busy people!
Think hyperactivity and busyness are only a modern-day malady? Think again. When King Solomon was not busy planning the first Jewish Temple, building his army, leading his people, and caring for his 700 wives, he also found time to write, share his wisdom, and even pray. Notice that I placed prayer at the end of that list, for there was apparently a period in his life when even he was too busy to pray. Interestingly, although Solomon rightly declares in his book of Ecclesiastes “There’s a time and purpose for everything under heaven,” he either intentionally or inadvertently left out “a time for praying” for it is missing from his “biblical to-do list.”4
Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”
~ St. Francis de Sales
But perhaps the best-known account of biblical busyness is found in Luke 10:38-42 – the time when Jesus visited the house of Martha and Mary.
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Now, if you are like me, you probably relate to both Martha and Mary. Both of their attitudes and actions have merit, and there is no shortage of biblical commentaries discussing the finer points of their personal choices. But for the purposes of this short post and in the interest of time, suffice it to say that most of us are probably more like Martha. “No bees, no honey; no work, no money”, “Idleness is the Devil’s workshop”, and “There’s no substitute for hard work” (Edison said that) I can hear you say.
But my guess is that Mary was no phlegmatic, and her desire to sit at the feet of Jesus was not to engage in mere twaddle. In fact, Mary was most likely just as busy, distracted, worried, and upset about the same things as Martha. She most likely knew precisely how much work needed to be done, probably even felt guilty about it, and knew how stressed her sister was over it all. The difference is that Mary had her priorities in order. After all, how often does one get to have Jesus in your house? No, her decision was intentional. In other words, Mary made a conscious choice to sit at the feet of Jesus, give him her undivided attention, and simply listen…even if for only five minutes.
As for us, it does not have to be an either/or proposition. We can be like both Martha and Mary. The best current example I can think of is Diana, a lay leader in our church and an active member of our local Nexus Prayer group at Saint Dunstan’s. In addition to being a loving mom and wife, she also works full-time, and also serves our church family by singing in the choir, ministering as a Stephen’s Minister, assisting with the Altar Guild, and was just elected to the Vestry. In other words, she’s one busy woman! But, she is also a woman of prayer, who sets aside the time each week out of her busy schedule to sit at the feet of Jesus in worship during our weekly church services, and faithfully sets aside the time to just “be” with God through both intercessory prayer and Nexus Prayer – both in class and as a part of our virtual prayer group. In other words, she exemplifies the very best of both Mary and Martha. Call her a Mary Martha.
And that’s precisely the purpose of Nexus Prayer. Like Martha, we all have to deal with the daily grind and challenges of life, but like Mary, each of us must also find the time— even if only five minutes a day – to give God our full, undivided attention to just “be” present to God and listen for His still, small voice. And I know of no better way of accomplishing that than by praying Psalm 46:10.
Be still, and know that I am God.”
Ready to begin? Nexus Prayer can be done in as little as 5 minutes a day and The Steps are easy to learn. Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime!
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 Crazy Busy| Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book About A Really Big Problem by Kevin Deyoung; Crossway (2013). See also, Crossway’s excellent Infographic on busyness: America’s Busyness Epidemic
Prayer – all types of prayer – both public and private are essential for the effectual Christian¹. But when and where is the best time to pray? The answer to that question speaks to the heart of nexus prayer, and is simple and obvious. Or is it?
In Ephesians 6:18, the Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray at all times and on every occasion.” Indeed, Paul comes right out and commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to actually “pray without ceasing.” Now, clearly, he was not speaking of a daily, incessant, on-our-knees, eyes-closed, and head-bowed type of praying, but rather of maintaining an attitude of prayer throughout the day. (Sometimes, we are not intended to take the bible quite so literally.) So, there’s no right time or bad time for prayer; we should pray at every opportunity. And lest we forget (with thanks to Rudyard Kipling), I’ve mentioned here many times that nexus prayer is intended to supplement, never replace other techniques and forms of prayer in the course of our weekly schedule and daily routine.
As to the where of prayer, I highly recommend finding a sacred space. But that said, although we should take the admonition Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:6 to pray in a certain way seriously, we should also not take this verse literally. In the 17th century English of King James, it reads:
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” In today’s vernacular, we would say it more like this: “But you, when you pray to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to God secretly, and your heavenly Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
In fact, many modern bible versions translate it in much the same way. But to be honest, the context and point that Jesus is making about prayer in his Sermon on the Mount² is not really about when or where we should pray, but how we should pray. Simply stated, he is teaching us that we should not pray in such a way that brings unnecessary attention to ourselves. If we do, then that’s our reward. Instead, Jesus is teaching that prayer is best done privately in our “inner room”– in the privacy of our own home, for example, rather than on a busy street corner where we can be seen by men.
But perhaps there is yet a deeper meaning also hidden in this teaching on prayer by Jesus. (He was, after all, speaking primarily to a group comprised largely of Jews, and did often teach with parables, riddles, and curious questions.) The likelihood that there is a mystical meaning embedded in Matthew 6:6 seems all the clearer to me when I read yet another passage from the Apostle Paul, this time in I Corinthians 3:16, and what I consider to be at the heart, the essence of nexus prayer.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
When the brother of Jesus¹ wrote in James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away”, perhaps he had in mind the rhetorical question, “Where does all the time go”? I find myself asking that same question about 2017 with a hot cup of tea and a warm bagel on this first cold January morning of 2018 – the first day of a new week of a new month and a new year.
Like most years, and as I mentioned in my post Praying Resolutely exactly one year ago today, I don’t make resolutions per se. Instead, each year around the time the first cold front arrives, and usually during my evening prayer walks, I begin conducting my personal and spiritual inventory of what I accomplished (or did not accomplish) in the previous year.
Now, don’t get me wrong, like most everyone else I do have a long list of personal, family, home, business, and even financial goals I’dlike I need to accomplish this year, but I prefer having one larger all-encompassing resolution – a theme as it were – for my year. Last year it was to pray more. This year, though I doubt I’ll pray less, my main aspiration is to draw close – even closer – to God. Needless to say, I plan on accomplishing this through nexus prayer, which brings me back to James …
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…” – James 4:8
Just like Psalm 46:10 in the Old Testament, this short verse in the New Testament – another command with a promise – is pregnant with meaning. Simply put, if we desire to have more of God in our lives in 2018, then we only need to initiate our intention – through prayer – to be present to God and He will meet us there. Jesus referred to it as going to pray in our inner room (the subject of a future post), Matthew 6:6, and I know of no better way to connect with God there than through nexus prayer, but I’ll let my fifty-two journal posts this year (I plan on writing one a week, of which this is the first) explain how this may best be achieved.
I look forward to sharing these spiritual insights with you throughout 2018 right here on the Nexus Prayer website and through our local prayer group gatherings, but for now, I’ll close with arguably the most important lesson of Psalm 46:10 found in Step 4 of Nexus Prayer. Namely, being still or letting go. If you are like me, 2017 was filled with many blessings, achievements, and successes, as well as a few disappointments along the way. That said, last night during my prayer walk and after taking one more long good look in my mental rear-view mirror, I left the not-so-great parts of 2017 behind me, while carrying forward into the new year all the goodness of last year – the people, the experiences, the memories, lessons learned, and wisdom gained.
May all the blessings of Emmanuel – God with us – be yours not only today, the eighth day of Christmas and first day of the new year, but every day of 2018 as you draw closer to God through Nexus Prayer. Amen.
Now, just for fun, and thanks to Statistics Brain, here are the results for 2017s top ten resolutions in America.² And just in case you are one of those people who actually enjoy making New Year’s resolutions, how about this one? Resolve to join me in praying no less than a five minute Nexus Prayer 365 times (once each day) in 2018. I’ve made that commitment, and hope you’ll join me in adding more prayer in general, and more nexus prayer in particular to the top of your list! Happy New Year!
AMERICA’S TOP TEN NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2017
1 Lose Weight / Healthier Eating | 21.4%
2 Life / Self Improvements | 12.3%
3 Better Financial Decisions | 8.5%
4 Quit Smoking | 7.1%
5 Do more exciting things | 6.3%
6 Spend More Time with Family / Close Friends | 6.2%
7 Work out more often | 5.5%
8 Learn something new on my own | 5.3%
9 Do more good deeds for others | 5.2%
10 Find the love of my life | 4.3%
NOTES & REFERENCES
1 James the brother of Jesus | Wikipedia – the free Encyclopedia | There is disagreement about the exact relationship of James to Jesus. The presumed author of the Epistle of James is also sometimes identified with James, son of Alphaeus, James, son of Zebedee, and James the Less.
This is an audio post. Turn up your speakers, hit “play”, and enjoy the music of Advent.
Merry Christmas from Allen White and Nexus Prayer International. Christmas Eve, 2017
“Jesus Christ is Born”
Sing it up high, sing it down low. Sing far and wide that Jesus Christ is Lord. Sing it up high, sing it down low. Sing ’til the whole world knows that Jesus Christ is born.”
“A long time ago like the prophets foretold Immanuel came. Born to a virgin by the Holy Ghost as Gabriel did say. Laid in a manger of hay for his bed, the Shepherds prayed., while Mary and Joseph and Kings from the East their homage gave.” – allen aaron white
This is an audio post. Turn up your speakers, hit “play”, and enjoy the music of Advent.
Merry Christmas from Allen White and Nexus Prayer International. Christmas Day, 2017
Alleluia! Let all creation sing. Alleluia!
Praise to the newborn King.”
“Close your eyes and go to sleep. Jesus, hush your cry. All creation lauds your birth with this lullaby. Born God’s Son in Bethlehem, Savior at his birth. Prince of Peace, Emmanuel. King of all the Earth. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Sweet, Jesus, sleep. – aaw
As both a continuation of my celebration of Advent1 this year, and in preparation for the final lesson of 2017 that I’ll be sharing with our Nexus Prayer group tomorrow morning at Saint Dunstan’s , I thought I’d share a few random thoughts here in my prayer journal about the reason for the season – the birth of Immanuel. Or is it Emmanuel?
From previous lessons and posts that I’ve shared, we know that embedded deeply within the ancient Hebrew of Psalm 46:10 there are no less than five unique names of God: Elohim, I Am, YHWH (Yahweh), Be, and an allusion to the Holy Trinity that is originally found in Genesis 1:1. But although not literally listed, there is yet another “name” to be found in Psalm 46 – namely (pun intended): Immanuel. Whether you prefer to use “Immanuel” from the ancient Hebrew found in Isaiah 7:14, or the transliterated2 Greek “Emmanuel” found in Matthew 1:21-23, I placed the word “name” above in quotes because technically neither are an actual name of Jesus. They are instead descriptions or titles.
There are many places in both the Old and New Testaments that declare how Jesus is to be referred to or called. The best examples were also provided to us by the prophet Isaiah when he wrote in Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Like the “name” Immanuel, none of those listed by Isaiah are actual, literal names, but rather titles or descriptives of the (coming) Messiah.
Interestingly, “Emmanuel” found in Matthew 1:21-23 appears only once in the entire New Testament, and although Isaiah makes a second mention of “Immanuel” in Isaiah 8:8, that reference is to the Jews of Israel, not the Messiah. So, there is actually only one reference to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament as well – the reference to the birth of Jesus some 735 years before it happened!
And what of the references to “Immanuel” in Psalm 46 that I spoke of? There are no less than three, but you’ll have to read my post on Emmanuel: God with Us from last Christmas to learn even more. But before continuing, why not take a moment and enjoy the following video “Immanuel: El is with Us”³ inspired by a Christmas Eve sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon4.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26
First, there was Halloween, followed by All Saints Day, All Souls Day, then last Sunday night’s beautiful Requiem Eucharist at Saint Dunstan’s. Then all hell broke loose, and it was all downhill from there.
That’s because for the better part of six days (and counting) I’m weary from wrestling with some mysterious influenza bug of unknown origin that’s gotten the best of me and kept me bed-ridden most of the time. Sick as a dog and really too weak to do much else, you’d think it would be a perfect time to spend more time in nexus prayer. That’s what I thought, too, but that’s not exactly how it has worked out for me. But I digress.
The scripture I cited from Romans at the top of this page has come to mind many times this week as I’ve struggled to maintain my normal, daily nexus prayer regimen. I realized that was easier said than done when, on day one of my solitary confinement, I set my alarm for my usual 4:54 am wake-up call, began my customary 30-minute nexus prayer, and did not realize until some ninety minutes later than I had fallen asleep and never even got past step one! It’s remarkable how the mind wanders and how, when either deprived of sleep or over-medicated, a simple five-minute nexus prayer can take almost an hour to complete. But despite the challenges, I’ve been able to glean some valuable spiritual insights from my bedroom-turned laboratory and this urban monk-turned guinea pig. In no particular order, then, here are a few lessons for us all, but especially for me:
“Let go, and LET GOD do the heavy lifting.”
Lesson 1 – In times of trouble, distress, and illness follow Martin Luther’s example of turning to the God of Psalm 46 for comfort. As we know today, Luther loved this psalm so much he set it to music as “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.1 He both recited and sang Psalm 46 quite often, especially when he was under heavy persecution. It begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 Are you overwhelmed with your present circumstances, including illness? God is your refuge and strength! Run to Him.
Lesson 2 – Embrace the 5. Having spent more than two years of practicing nexus prayer, I can tell you that the 5-minute prayer interval is the Rodney Dangerfield of prayer. It gets no respect. The biggest mistake beginners to NXP encounter is underestimating the value of simply spending five minutes with God. All too often, newbies to the prayer practice attempt the 20, 30, even 60-minute intervals all too soon, or attempt praying for five minutes, but do so something like twenty times a day. Also, not a good idea. Indeed, since first launching Nexus Prayer in 2015, I have logged more than 3,400 prayer sessions for a total duration of about 547 hours. That’s praying nexus prayer – connecting to God daily – more than 500 hours with most of those sessions coming in 5-minute intervals. And being bed-ridden this past week – the sickest I can recall ever being in my life – I discovered more than ever that the five-minute nexus prayer is my friend.
Lesson 3 – Be realistic. Do not strive for perfection. God neither demands nor desires perfection from us in our prayer time, just our intention. The mind wanders. Accept this fact. External noises and internal distractions, memories, thoughts, etc.… while we are praying are ever-present. Let them go. We get tired and sometimes fall asleep while praying. It’s okay! It’s not about how many minutes we pray a day, but our simple intention to just “be” and spend any amount of time with God. The closest human bond is probably that of a mother and her child. What mother does not love for her baby to fall asleep in her arms as she lovingly caresses, cradles, and whispers in a still, small voice words of love? Do we think God – our Abba Father – cares for us any less when we drift asleep in those moments we draw near to Him through nexus prayer?
Lesson 4 – Praying Psalm 46:10 is full of obstacles – especially when we are sick. As mentioned previously, the mind wanders; our spirit is willing, but our body is weak Matthew 26:41. Our symptoms and nagging pain, even with the common cold or flu, can be a major distraction, how much more serious health issues such as diabetes, cancer, stroke, or heart problems to name just a few. Big or small, God can handle them all.
Lesson 5– Let God do the heavy lifting. Praying when it is the hardest for us to do so is the most important time for us to pray. Just be still and let God do the heavy lifting. God knows what we need before we can even ask or think. Remember the verse at the beginning of this post? “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26 Sometimes, we are simply unable to pray. No words. No strength. Perfect! Just where God wants us.
Finally, at the time of this writing, several members of our Sunday morning nexus prayer group are either in bed sick, recuperating from surgery, or remain in the hospital. Although they can’t be with us physically, I’ve joined them virtually throughout the week via synchronized prayer2, and I’ve encouraged them to connect with God and me every chance they get. I never tire of hearing or sharing with them the comforting words of Matthew 18:20.
Although my personal physical battles with sickness this week presented significant challenges for me, they are simply mosquito bites compared to those who suffer each and every day from serious and chronic illness. This has both raised my awareness and increased my compassion for those suffering from debilitating physical and mental injuries and disease. How can I – we – best share nexus prayer with them so that they, too, can benefit from hearing God’s still, small voice and experience Christ’s suffering love for them? I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m more compelled than ever to discover how. God will show the Way…through nexus prayer.