January 24, 2023 – Pastor Bill Yaccino
The hurried nature of our day can quickly leave us frantic, anxious and weary. We may end our day wondering where the stillness and peace of the morning went. But consistently planning and experiencing selah pauses throughout our day will do much to break the grip of hurry, remind us of God’s nearness, reset our mental, emotional and spiritual state, promote rest in God’s bigness, and even foster a Spirit-filled imagination.
- Take a moment to reflect (if you are going through this on your own) or share (if you are with others in a group setting): What are you grateful for today? What are you struggling with today?
- As a group, sit in silence for 60 seconds (use a timer). Were you comfortable or uncomfortable? How do you feel after taking a pause as compared to beforehand?
- Read Psalm 3 (Read twice – ESV and either NLT or Message)
- Take a moment to briefly retell the passage in your own words.
- What words or phrases “jumped off the page” and intrigued you the most? Why?
- Do you see instances of pause and reflection within your broader cultural context? At work? In the media? Among your neighbors? Why or why not?
- John Mark Comer, the author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World, states “To walk with Jesus is to walk with a slow, unhurried pace. Hurry is the death of prayer and only impedes and spoils our work. It never advances it.” Do you agree or disagree? Do you observe this throughout the Church? Why do you think that is?
- It was common Jewish practice to pray at least three times a day (see Dan. 6:10 and Psalm 119:164). How does this compare to your current practice? Does a single quiet time, perhaps in the morning, spiritually sustain you throughout the day?
- Brother Lawrence, a monastic lay brother from 17th century France, has this to say of our everyday lives: “We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.” In this way we may grow in what Brother Lawrence calls the ‘practice of the presence of God.’ Habitually planning and experiencing selah pauses throughout our day can do much to orient our minds and our hearts toward the Lord in any circumstance, no matter how mundane. How could you incorporate selah pauses in your day? Where can you find time to stop? What will center your head, your heart, and your hands? How can you find silence in the busyness of the day? Do you have a prayer or a piece of Scripture that helps you slow down?
- In his message titled Selah, Pastor Mark describes how the habit of selah can break the grip of hurry, remind us of God’s nearness, reset our mental and emotional state, yield an idea, or provide rest in God’s vastness. Have you ever experienced any of these in the past? What were the circumstances surrounding that experience? What was your posture?
Live It Out
- What is one thing God seems to be asking you to do in response to this passage? (i.e., “I will ….”)
- Who can you tell about this “I will” statement in the next 48 hours?
- Journal about your time in God’s Word this week. Stop to listen to what He might be telling you. Celebrate His presence through His Word.
- Spend time this week reflecting and improvising in light of this prayer from Henri Nouwen:
“O Lord, please accept my distractions, my fatigue, my irritations, and my faithless wanderings. You know me more deeply and fully than I know myself. You love me with a greater love than I can love myself. You even offer me more than I can desire. Look at me, see me in all my misery and inner confusions, and let me sense your presence in the midst of my turmoil… Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into Your arms and let me rest, simple quiet rest. Amen.”
Spiritual Practice for the Week: Breath Prayer
The Breath Prayer can help us learn to pray unceasingly. It is a way to have on our lips what is always on our heart.
In Hebrew the word ruach has three meanings: “wind,” “breath,” and “Spirit.”
The best known Breath Prayer is called the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13; Tax Collector). It can be shortened, as in “Jesus, have mercy on me.” It is traced back to the 6th century with the desert fathers, and became popular in the Christian church in the East during the 14th and 19th centuries.
Typically, the Breath Prayer should be 6-8 syllables, and can usually be said as we take one breath. Our desire in practicing a Breath Prayer is to make it personal. It should arise from within our individual need. Since we are all unique, and the Spirit prays within each of us, it seems appropriate that everyone has a special and individual response to God.
Discovering Your Breath Prayer (Set aside 5 minutes)
- Sit comfortably (alone).
- Let go of anxious, busy thoughts.
- Read a short Scripture passage reminding yourself that God holds you in his loving presence. Ex. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46: 10 RSV)
- Imagine God is calling out to you by name and asking you, “(your name) what do you want?”
- Give God a simple and direct answer that comes honestly from your heart.
- Write down your answer.
- Determine a name for God that feels suitable or comfortable for you such as God, Father, Lord, Jesus, Holy One, Kind Shepherd, Abba, Yahweh, etc.
- Now put the two (name of God and specific desire) together, saying it silently.
- Work with this prayer until it is fine tuned and becomes your own.
Sample Breath Prayers
Jesus, let me feel your love / Jehovah Jireh, be my provider / Holy Wisdom, Guide me
O Lord show me your way / Abba, I am your child / Let me know your peace, O God
Holy One, heal me / Lord, carry my burden / Abba Father, let me feel your presence.
Alleluia, have mercy, Jesus / Jesus, have mercy on me
Let the prayer flow naturally. Do not force it. It may fit naturally with the breaths you take, but don’t worry about it if it doesn’t. Repeat it over and over several times. If desired and needed, take several breath prayer breaks throughout the day. In the space below write a favorite name for God or Jesus and a prayer that’s currently on your heart.