When I lived in Nepal, my neighbors daily bowed before the stone idol they worshiped, washing and presenting fresh flowers to it.
Once cleansed and incense burning, they presented a food offering to please their god, asking to be kept safe from harm. This ritual was part of their daily prayer.
They had a visible, tangible idol for whichever god they worshiped. They could care for it and do visible acts of worship that evoked all their senses. More importantly, engaging in that ritual allowed their brain to believe their god was real.
But YHWH is invisible.
Trauma Impacts Your Prayer Life
There is no temple to experience visible evidence of His presence – as happened in the days of the Old Testament. Because of this, our brain must operate with nothing tangible to guide us. When you and I go to prayer, we pray to an invisible God.
If you have experienced unresolved trauma, you have the disadvantage of operating out of unconscious trauma responses. Whether your dad died when you were little, he abandoned you, or you suffered abuse at his hand, your brain, seeking to protect you from danger, unconsciously translates your painful experiences into a belief the Heavenly Father is distant, dangerous, and disinterested.
Practice the Presence of Christ to Transform Your Prayers
As a young woman, I struggled with prayer. It seemed God didn’t answer; worse, it seemed my prayers rose into the air and dissipated into nothingness.
I loved Jesus, but He was nebulous. Untouchable and unseeable, therefore, unknowable. In other words, Jesus was a beloved storybook character.
The Lord allowed me to find one of the most important books I have ever read; a 100-year-old copy of Brother Lawrence’s Practice the Presence of God, written in the 17th century.
Deeply touched by Brother Lawrence’s book, I determined to become more familiar with Jesus by practicing doing little things to realize He was present.
I began by speaking out loud as I pointed to the comfiest chair in the living room. “Lord, please sit down here. It would be nice if we had a chat.”
Using my imagination to picture Him sitting down, I nodded my head, and taking the seat across from Him, began talking out loud, telling Him I felt silly but wanted to get to know Him. Then I waited for Him to answer – as if He actually was present.
Develop a Daily Habit of Prayer
That became a daily habit, which extended to inviting Him into the kitchen as I prepared meals, did laundry, or washed the dishes.
You may think it sounds corny or mystical.
I believe it is one of the most important lessons I have ever learned about prayer.
Since then, I’ve learned because of trauma, my brain needed a foundation to anchor onto, which allowed a fresh network of neuronal paths to be formed so my brain could accept the reality of my wonderful Saviour, who I can neither see, hear, or touch on the physical plane. For Jesus to become an unshakeable foundation – I had to believe He was present.
Practicing the presence of Christ transformed my prayer time. Although I still couldn’t see Him, by imagining what was true, my faith grew. I came to know Jesus really was with me and wanted to communicate with me. It became second nature to have a quiet running communication with Him throughout the day.
When I thought I was alone, I quietly spoke to the Lord; if friends saw me, they’d laugh, “Barbara, you are going crazy, talking to yourself.”
I’d laugh, “Did you know the sanest people are those who talk to themselves! But actually, I’m talking to Jesus.”
They looked puzzled, thinking I was a bit “teched in the head”.
Prayer Takes Us Through the Dark Places
When my daughter died, having daily practiced living in the presence of Jesus enabled me to function. My heart broken, having no words to express my anguish, I retired to the garden to walk and talk with Jesus.
Weeping, singing, praying – but always in the presence of Jesus.
Knowing Jesus was with me brought comfort and hope, enabling me to trust Him in the darkness of my grief.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is relational intimacy with the Lord. It is also a discipline where you meet with and practice the presence of Jesus.
How can I practice the presence of Christ?
You can practice the presence of Christ by, daily, choosing to meet with Him – in a special quiet place and talking to Him as if He is really present.
Even if you don’t feel anything special, close your eyes; invite Him to enter the room and sit next to you.
Develop a habit of meeting with Him – one day at a time, then one moment at a time. This results in a lifestyle of living in His presence.
As you move out of your prayer closet, take Him with you as you walk through your day.
“Think often on God, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave him not alone.”
– Brother Lawrence
One day, you will awaken to realize you live and breathe prayer – talking with Jesus will be the most natural thing in your life.
This is exciting for it means the breath of the Spirit has become your breath.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7).