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Creative prayer: Pressing pause

Lynne Baab • Friday June 7 2019

Creative prayer: Pressing pause

In an online discussion about the spiritual practice of simplicity, one of my students used the words “press pause” to describe what simplicity helps us do. I began thinking about other spiritual practices that help us press pause. Fasting and Sabbath are good examples.

Then my thoughts expanded to include prayer. When we stop to pray, we are pressing pause on the activity we were doing and the thoughts that were filling our mind.

A friend of mine loved a visit to a monastery, with consistent times of prayer day after day. When he got home, he set his phone to ping at 9 am, noon, and 3 pm. Whatever he’s doing, he stops and prays at that time, sometimes briefly, sometimes for a longer period of time. He is pressing pause on the activities and thoughts of his workday or his weekend activities.

Prayer invites us to do something different with the preoccupations and concerns that have been filling our time. As we turn to God in prayer, we may pray about those preoccupations and concerns, or we may set them aside to pray for something else. Either way, we are pressing pause on our normal way of dealing with the tasks to be accomplished and the things on our mind. We are acknowledging that God is God and we are not.

This stopping when we pray can also help those of us who are prone to worry. The very act of praying enables us to acknowledge – at least on some level – that God love us, cares for us, provides for us, and loves, cares, and provides for those we love. This presses pause on worry and anxiety.

All forms of prayer invite us to press pause on the way we look at life and the way we cope with challenges. Specific forms of prayer help us press pause on specific aspects of our daily life. I’ve thought of quite a few, and I bet you can think of more.

Praying for our own needs helps us press pause on the messages from our culture that we are self-made people and that everything we have comes from our own effort.

Intercessory prayer for others helps us press pause on our preoccupation with our own needs. In addition, entrusting people into God’s care can help us press pause on the feeling that we are hyper-responsible for everything going on in other people’s lives. (See my blog post from a few weeks ago about this.)

Thankfulness prayers help us press pause on our thoughts about what we lack. We can let go for a few moments of the strong messages of the advertising culture that we need that next thing right now. Thankfulness prayers help us appreciate the many gifts God has given us.

Silent meditative prayer helps us press pause on the endless stream of words and noise that surround us.

Prayer with others – whether aloud or silent – helps us press pause on our habitual conversational patterns with those people, which sometimes get into ruts.

Praying the words of the Bible – a psalm, a prayer by someone in the Bible, or the words of any passage – helps us press pause on our habitual patterns of prayer.

I’m finding it helpful to think about two ways to apply this notion of pressing pause in prayer. As you can see above, I’ve been thinking about the ways various forms of prayer help me press pause. My next frontier is to think about the areas of my life where I need to press pause a bit more often and then to consider the forms of prayer, as well as other spiritual practices, that might help me do that.

(Next week: Learning creative prayer with prayer cards. Illustration by Dave Baab: a moment of pressing pause at the Mount Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" below or in the right hand column of the whole webpage.)

One of the major ways we can press pause is to keep a Sabbath. I have eight articles on my website that I’ve written for magazines about the Sabbath. You can access them here. I also wrote a book and a Bible study guide about the Sabbath.

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