Settle yourself so you are sitting in an upright position that is as comfortable as possible. You might want to rest your palms on your knees, but it’s up to you whether you close your eyes or keep them open. Then just stay still for a few minutes. You’ll probably find your nose itches or you hear a strange noise, or you suddenly want to plan a cruise … but don’t worry about any of that. Just focus on staying physically still. Notice your breathing slow and your muscles relax, and feel what happens when your world stops spinning, just for a few moments. That’s it – you’ve started practising stillness.
Use your body
Pray your way through Psalm 51, using different body postures to accentuate the words you’re saying. This exercise might be easier if you listen to the words being read, rather than reading them yourself. You could either use the audio playback in your Bible app, or make a recording of yourself reading the psalm slowly and then play it back.
• Lie face down on the floor and read verses 1–6. This is a posture of worship and penitence.
• Kneel to read verses 7–14. This is a posture of humility and supplication.
• Stand to read verses 15–19. This is a posture of declaration and determination.
Think of a difficult or unpleasant practical task that needs doing – something in the house or garden that needs cleaning, perhaps. Before you make a start, think of a difficult situation that you’re praying for at the moment, preferably one you feel strongly about. Then, as you work, let your physical actions become your prayer for that situation.
Perhaps the scrubbing of ingrained dirt expresses your longing to see forgiveness and reconciliation; perhaps the work of repairing something expresses your desire to see God rebuild broken lives; perhaps the business of weeding, digging and planting expresses your prayer to see new growth in your church.
As you do your prayer action, don’t forget to listen. God will probably want to say just as much to you through that task as you want to say to him.
How to release anger
Emotions like anger, jealousy or deep sadness can build up inside us and have a hugely negative effect on our well-being and the way we behave towards others, if they go unaddressed.
Meditate on any feelings that you may be carrying, perhaps even without realising they have stayed with you. It can be hard to admit to having feelings of anger or jealousy, or to be vulnerable and share how deeply a bereavement or sad event has filled our heart and mind.
Now choose a balloon in a colour that represents your feelings: red symbolising anger, green jealousy or blue for sadness. Blow the balloon up and, as you do this, use the action of your breath filling the balloon as a prayer. As your breath fills the balloon, imagine you are exhaling the feelings of anger, jealousy or sadness.
When the balloon is full, tie its end closed. Hold the balloon for a few minutes, naming the emotions you have filled the balloon with before God, asking him to help you let them go. Relinquish their power over you, asking the Lord to help you continue to give them into his care when they threaten to overwhelm you again. Then, to symbolise your determination to not let these feelings have control in your life, burst the balloon with a pin.
How to pray through worries
How often do we add to our burden of cares, carrying worry with us rather than releasing it into God’s hands?
Take some bubble wrap and look at the bubbles dotted all over the sheet. Imagine for a moment that you could trap the things that weigh heavily on your mind inside those bubbles of air. They would then contain your worries, hurts and the things that you find difficult. As you meditate upon this, think of those things you would choose to encapsulate in the bubbles: the feelings of worry, hurt or anxiety that you would like God to help you ‘stamp out’ in your life, releasing you from carrying them any longer.
Give your worries over to God in prayer. Imagine those anxieties or concerns are now released from your mind and heart, and are held captive inside the bubbles of the bubble wrap. When you feel ready, begin to stamp on the bubble wrap sheet or pop a series of bubbles by hand. As you hear that therapeutic sound of each little bubble of air pop, take time to ask God to help you stamp out those worries you have prayed about, relinquishing them into his care.
Take a small piece of bubble wrap with you, as a reminder of your prayer and for you to pop when you next start to feel the worry or anxiety trying to rob you of your joy and need to pray again.
Pray with Scripture
Try savouring a few words from God’s eternal, active Word, for instance, the phrase “The Lord is my rock”. Say it to yourself several times over, each time putting the emphasis on a different word in the phrase: “The Lord is my rock”; “The Lord is my rock”; “The Lord is my rock”; and so on. Stop after each phrase and reflect on how emphasising a different word gives the whole phrase fresh nuance. Then ask God which version of the phrase he is emphasising to you at this time in your life.
Pray through the news
Choose a current news story to pray about. First, take time to do some research: read a few articles and write down what you learn. Then, use your notes to inform your prayer. Pray for each person involved by name; think about how they might be feeling; pray for the circumstances that need to change or the issues that need to be resolved. Bring that situation before God, taking time to pray detailed, specific prayers.