If you find it hard to relax into prayer during Advent, try this contemplative exercise. It’s adapted from Anthony Bloom’s classic book Beginning to Pray. Bloom, a Russian Orthodox Archbishop who died in 2003, wrote this short book in 1970 and it continues to be an inspiration to people of prayer today. In his chapter, “Managing Time,” Bloom describes this prayer exercise in narrative form.* I’ve broken it down into steps. It is so simple and short it can be used daily as a prelude to other prayer practices.
Resolve to be in prayer for at least five minutes. Do not answer the phone or allow yourself to be distracted from your goal.
- Be seated and say to yourself “Here I am seated, doing nothing. I will do nothing for five minutes” (or longer, depending on the time you set for yourself).
- Begin noticing your own bodily presence. How your body feels next to the chair. How your feet feel against the floor. Relax your body. Notice what you feel inside.
- Now notice the presence of all that is around you. Say to yourself, “Here I am in the presence of the room (garden, chapel, wherever you are).” Be aware of the furniture, walls, any pets or people in the room. Just be present and silent in your environment. Relax even more.
- Now say to yourself, “Here I am in the presence of God.” Repeat silently to God, “Here I am.” Bask in the presence of the Holy One until your time goal has been reached.
*Beginning to Pray, Anthony Bloom. (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1970) Pp. 85-86.