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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lunacy and Prayer

Here is an idea that will either improve your prayer life, or get you locked up. Maybe both.

It comes from Henri Nouwen. The other day he sent his daily email (apparently they have computers in heaven) and said:

Our minds are always active. We analyze, reflect, daydream, or dream. There is not a moment during the day or night when we are not thinking. You might say our thinking is "unceasing." Sometimes we wish that we could stop thinking for a while; that would save us from many worries, guilt feelings, and fears. Our ability to think is our greatest gift, but it is also the source of our greatest pain. Do we have to become victims of our unceasing thoughts? No, we can convert our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer by making our inner monologue into a continuing dialogue with our God, who is the source of all love.

I am one who has taken the practice of 'unceasing thoughts' to Olympic levels. I am the Michael Phelps of unceasing thoughts. I am also one who could benefit from more prayer. Could I actually convert my over thinking into prayer?

I decided to try it out the next time I got myself in that unceasing thought spiral. I was at the YMCA, exercising over the lunch hour. This is an intentional mini-sabbath practice, designed to step away from work for a rest. But pretty quickly I was back into my ponderings about the financial stress that nonprofits like Lumunos are under*.

I went with the Nouwen idea--converting my unceasing thought into prayer. It was a subtle difference, in some ways just talking to God about it rather than myself. I spoke to God about my fears, my hopes, my anxiety. Somehow it helped.

People who talk to God too much can be seen as a bit loopy. I'm not sure I want to be one of those people who walk down the street, speaking to someone or something unseen. Or do I?

*If you would like me to focus on the exercise machine and not the Lumunos budget, click here to contribute.


  1. I got the Nouwen e-mail, too. I try to pray rather than over-think while I run around the track at lunchtime, and I have to drag my thoughts back to the praying literally hundreds of times. Sometimes I have to talk out loud to make myself stop thinking. It's a powerful force to overcome.

  2. Watch out! Here comes a blog response from Kay!

  3. A part of this conversation is trusting emptiness and silence (including the internal chatter). In some ways doing whatever I can to stop the inside chatter can be prayerful. This of course is what so many of the great religions of the world have been saying for centuries. 'Be still and know that I am God' is easy to say and not easy to do. For me anyway.

  4. What a joy to read this on such a cold January day! With all of the talk about diets and addictions to food this month, your article was my second "ah-ha" moment this week.

    An old friend was lamenting her unsuccessful diet attempts and stated that I was lucky that my family of origin didn't equate food with love. Then she declared that my family always was addicted to extroverted conversation about interesting ideas. Her idea was quite new for me and your Michael Phelps idea of mulling over too much in my head resonated. Thus, I am now going to try your interesting approach of less mumbling to myself and more praying/chatting with God. Thanks!
    Kay C.

  5. I would like to do battle in the chatter
    as I know much of what I think is nonsense that blinds me to the real opportunities and chances for life and love. Exercise always helps - I think I will take to running 40 flights of stairs and see how that works!

  6. Here is some wisdom I got from a new coffee shop this morning as handed my americano and complaining about all I have to do and accomplish- "there is something to be said for being little"

    Wow- what I weight off my shoulders!