Saturday, November 2, 2013

10 Unspiritual Spiritual Disciplines

Here are some random ideas (probably none of them original to me) about combining prayer with physical
activity, to integrate prayer – for self, for others, for connecting with God ever more – into the molecules of our being.

Blessing is my favored form of intercessory prayer – the sending out of God’s beneficence to others, particularly the random passer-by, for I never know how, when or where these blessings land, but I imagine them, somehow, making a difference in a day.

These practices are not meditation.  They are not an effort to seek to distance ourselves from our bodies, for I firmly believe that we are our bodies, our bodies us.

There’s plenty of advice out there on the how to’s of silence and meditation, connecting to God by leaving self and world behind.

These are not those prayers, those disciplines.

The purpose here is not to seek God away from the world, but in it; not as separated from creation, but of it.  This is not about rising up, but about sinking into.  This is about meeting, not finding, God, in the day-to-day of life.

1. Take a walk – just about anywhere will do.  But do it as a spiritual walk.  That’s what I like about labyrinths – it’s an intentional walk of the spiritual kind that frees the mind from having to decide where to go next.  This kind of walking is about the noticing – so it’s heads up, offering ‘up’ kind of walking.  And almost any day is a beautiful day for it.

2. Pray-bless passers-by.  Whether walking or driving, with each passer-by, offer a silent blessing.  Start out simply by saying ‘God bless you’ and see where it takes you.  I did this as a discipline for some time with a small group I belong to.  I did it while driving.  And the strangest thing began to happen – I could not even see the folks speeding by in the other cars, but my blessings began to be very specific – usually one word – health . . . joy . . . peace . . . care . . . healing . . . safety . . . humor . . . the words were unbidden.  I do not know what blessings landed, but I do know they were Spirit-given and Spirit-driven.

3. Dance.  Dance your joys and sorrows to God.  Get the feet moving and somehow, the heart follows.

4. Begin your prayers as well as your day with a smile and see what a difference it makes.

5. Sing your prayers.  Put them to any tune you like but at least once, try to singing them to a song that makes you happy just to hear it.  Maybe you can then imagine God happy to hear from you.

6. Make a gratitude list about your body.  We are embodied creatures – we were made that way on purpose.  There is no me separate from my body.  Lips for kissing and arms for hugging can be a good place to begin.

7. The next time you have a meeting, go early, before anyone arrives, and walk the space putting your hands on the chairs assembled and ask blessings for all who will be sitting there and the work you will be doing (don’t forget yourself in the blessing).

8. Go back to childhood and make your cards for folks by hand, offering blessings as you do – for the one who will get the card, for the one making it, for those who made paper and crayons, markers and colored pencils so you could.  (It’s always a nice practice to remember to bless those who bring you the materials you’re working with.)

9. Try doing a set prayer you know (Lord’s Prayer, rosary, Now I lay me . . . ) over and over as you engage in physical activity or labor – to the rhythm of the saw as you cut the wood . . . to the washing of the dish . . . the turn of the wrench . . . you don’t have to think much to do a memorized prayer and the rhythm of the work sets the rhythm of the prayer and the rhythm of the prayer sets the rhythm of the work.

10. Imagine that everything you do today is a form of prayer.  Reflect on what you prayed today by reflecting on what you did and said and thought.  Answer the questions that arise out loud.  Yes, God, I really did ask You to throw that person in the trash.  I really did want the gift of this day so I could watch people make asses of themselves on reality tv.  I did just ask the angel chorus of heaven to join me in screaming at that driver.  How cool is it that You and I got to help that little old lady?  I’m so glad I called her today – who knows when I might get another chance?  Whether your answers are laughter or shame, sorrow or joy, speak them aloud, so that you may hear with the ears God gave you what God has been listening to all day long.

Our lives actually are our prayers.

Maybe this list can help us remember.


  1. I love these, Beth! Some I do, and some I've done in the past.. (Buddhist ? saying, 'Chop wood, carry water..") I needed this reminder to be more conscientious about these practices. Pray without ceasing. Thank you for putting this into words.

    1. Me too - a good reminder of what we already know, eh?

  2. At a small church I used to attend in Denton, we ladies met once a week for a class called "Sweat Your Prayers" - a combination of exercise, dance, and prayerful movement. I think I'll get that music out!

  3. What a lovely post. My spiritual discipline is a solo walk on Sunday morning, but reading this list has given me lots of ideas on expanding the concept and sharing it with others. Thank you!

    1. Debbi, I love the idea of a walk especially on Sunday morning, when all's a bit slower, a bit quieter. Thank you.