Sometimes when we are troubled or need to focus our thoughts, it has been said we need a “focal,” like a lit candle in front of a cross or perhaps an Icon, gently lit by candles. I find that candles and dimly lit rooms helps me to calm my mind and allows me to focus my thoughts on what I need to chat with God about. Elder Thaddeus tells us that prayer should be like talking to our Parent, our Father, in a very personal way. God knows our thoughts, so trying to gel them into something coherent is not necessary for God to understand our coming to Him in prayer, but it helps us to focus our issues and perhaps even to whittle them down to something tangible. For me, I often find myself rattled over things like budgeting for things that are coming up, and trying to manage our household in a thrifty way, to secure our future. More often than not, when I actually dive into a spread sheet, things are much simpler and not as horrid as I thought. Numbers arranged in pluses and minuses is somehow easier to manage than my imagining it! Our minds are powerful things that can carry us off into waters we needn’t necessarily be wading into. Which is why my Lenten reading is more important than ever for my peace of mind!
As I was waiting for a friend last night (we try to meet about monthly while I wait for my son at his CAP meeting) I was enjoying a nice cup of Hazelnut Latte (easy on the hazelnut) and reading Elder Thaddeus. His book is great in that you read it in sections, and within those sections are numbered items he is relating to that topic. It is almost like a tabletop book you can easily pick up, except that the content is pretty “heavy” at times. Earlier in the day I was waiting at the DMV while we got my son an ID card and one of the workers called out to me, “What are you reading?” I did not realize, at first, he was speaking to me, but when I looked around me, he continued, “Yeah, you; you’re the only one in here with a book.” When I told him the title (again, Elder Thaddeus), he shrugged it off, more interested in why I was reading a book instead of using a “Nook” or “Kindle.” He has no use for books, so my reasoning did not interest him in the least. I tried to explain that I love books and love the process of reading from one. I feel so much more connected to the toils of the author and the words contained inside the pages, if I am holding the book. My son has a funny habit of smelling a book before he buys it. He insists that if it does not feel right in his hands or smell right, it won’t be a good read. I have met many others who feel the exact same way! And I am clinging to the process of reading a book from a book, rather than an electronic reader. I just do not want to switch over. The content of Elder Thaddeus’ book would seem to agree with me, in that he is always cautioning us, in all things, to be simpler and quieter. Therefore, using an electronic device to read that seems somehow wrong to the intent of the book.
This morning I am all a-twitter over our immediate future and am praying almost non-stop, “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The “Jesus Prayer,” or “Prayer of the Heart,” is an ancient way of connecting to our Lord. As I drove across town to the CAP meeting last night, I had the radio turned off and used my fingers on the wheel to tap out each time I prayed that prayer. What I do is start by offering the prayer for a particular intention, and then just keep praying. I know God is listening and is pleased by the words I am using, but much, much more is occurring while I pray. I found that last night, as I was driving and praying, I was also thinking about what I was praying about. It was an amazing thing. I actually could still feel myself tapping out the prayer each time I said it, with my fingers, and I also knew I was driving and that I was talking to God on a completely different level. The traffic did not stress me out; I was able to answer my son when he asked me questions from the back seat (where he was, of course, watching a movie on the DVD player); I was also able to continue praying. My mind was settled and my heart was clear – and it was amazing. I did not allow the distractions of the world to stop me from continuing my prayer. Elder Thaddeus says “Because God is everywhere, the fallen spirits cannot do what they want. They can harm us mostly through other people. We can protect ourselves from them only with the power of God. Man has been given great strength, and if only we could concentrate our thoughts in prayer, the fallen spirits would not be able to harm us or do anything contrary to the Will of God. Where there is prayer, the fallen spirits have no power.” I know that God allows distraction and temptation in our lives in order to strengthen us, and it is amazing to witness inside your heart, the power of that prayer to overcome the distractions in life.