Do you struggle to pray? Perhaps this question may help get to one of the challenges before you: Would you describe your mind as reactive or receptive right now?
A receptive mind will be able to take in your surroundings and to receive from God, making it more conducive to prayer. The reactive mind is on edge and will leave you fragmented, worried, and restless as you respond quickly, compare yourself to others, and struggle to keep up with all of details life throws at you.
When describing the state of people today compared to the ideal state of people at prayer, Martin Laird believes that many exist in a state of “reactive mind.” He uses the metaphor of a person trapped in a phone booth with a bee to illustrate his idea, but reactive mind goes beyond simply reacting to events in the present moment.
Reactive mind is more than reacting to things. It’s also an uneasy state of being, comparing yourself to others and focusing on what you lack. It is appeased for a moment when we acquire something or reach a particular goal, but then it switches back to its reactive uneasiness in a short time.
This reactionary state is the norm for technology and social media in particular. Influence thrives through being the first to react or to have the sharpest reaction.
Through social media we can’t help but notice all that we lack, all that we could aspire to, and all that others have that we don’t have. Comparison and discontent are a natural state of being, but to make matters more daunting, we also have to deal with companies that have flooded these social networks with ads, promotions, sponsors, and “lifestyle” pictures.
Technology and social media foster this reactivity that is already natural for us, making the perfect storm.
There isn’t a quick fix that I know of to become more receptive to God and less reactive to others. In An Ocean of Light, Martin Laird suggests returning again and again and again to the simple practice of silent, contemplative prayer.
Over time we can train ourselves to become quiet, to resist the urge to react, and to eventually meet the highs and lows of life with more awareness and stability. We can learn to receive what God is doing in our days without having to react in any particular way.
When we feel the tug of reactive mind pushing us, unsettling us, or pulling us away from the ground of silent awareness of God’s love, there isn’t a need for some drastic measure. Laird suggests a simple return to the practice of silent letting go, waiting on God’s present love to work in however God intends.
Read More About How to Pray…
This is an adaptation from Flee, Be Silent, Pray. After years of anxious, hard-working spirituality, I found peace with God by practicing contemplative prayer. I’ve written an introduction to this historic Christian practice titled:
Flee, Be Silent, Pray:
Ancient Prayers for Anxious Christians