When I think of prayer, I often consider that I have to start out talking to God, as though somehow I have to keep the Lord entertained. But he already knows who I am, and even what my needs are. So perhaps I can use a different approach. I am grateful that there are many kinds of prayer. Here is one you may not have seen before, but is a way to experience the reality of God's love and presence in a short, focused time. It's called "The 3 R's."¹
REST: First, stop (don't do this one while driving!). Get comfortable, whether sitting or otherwise, and consciously release any stress or tension you feel in your muscles or joints. Be still and silent, breathing quietly, and think "Breathe in rest -- breathe out rest." Let the air and its life-giving oxygen be a reminder of our Creator's grace toward you in providing air and life. Just quietly stay and enjoy the presence of the Lord through that gentle breathing in and out, and in your stillness. You may want to reflect upon Psalm 62:1, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”
RECEIVE: Out of that rest and stillness, allow yourself to be conscious of, and to openly receive, God's love for you. You may wish to open your hands, palms upward, or use another gesture of receiving / gathering in, to focus your attention on receiving from your loving Father. Notice what you feel while you're in this stillness of simply receiving. You may consider reflecting upon Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
RESPOND: While feeling the closeness and love of God, his gracious acceptance and open arms receiving you, this could be a good time to respond with gratitude. No need to be eloquent or lengthy, just a word, a phrase or a sentence of your response to him, your love in response to his love. You could raise your hand, or simply smile or laugh in delight like a child being loved by a parent. In your response you may wish to pray through Psalm 17:6-7a, “I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. . . (NLT)
Once you're finished sitting in stillness like this, it's okay to stop and consider what you experienced, even to say another prayer of gratitude to our Father for his graciousness toward you. This entire prayer process may take less than five minutes, yet it can add a tremendous amount of calm and energy to your normal routine. Why not give it a try and see how you benefit?
¹For an audio presentation of this practice, go to www.hcminternational.org/audio as a recording under "The 3-R Prayer: Discerning the Presence of God - Robert Woodcock."
Mark is pastor of Living Grace Christian Fellowship in Arvada, Colorado. As a member of the Odyssey in Christ ministry team, he participates in spiritual formation workshops and seminars and serves as a spiritual director on retreats.