Not long ago my prayer life had become pretty dry. Then I spent some time at the University of California, Berkeley learning from brain scientists about their surprising discovery that prayer has the power to transform human beings.
These mostly non-religious scientists were amazed at the power of prayer to make the world a more loving place. This inspired me. Here are the three tips that lit a fire in my heart to get back on my knees (and meditation pillow).
- Pray with gratitude. This is not only theologically sensible, it is also great for your brain. Research has shown that regularly counting blessings and expressing thanks to God increases happiness and productivity. Not sure how to cultivate gratitude? Check out what the masters of gratitude have taught us.
- Pray for other people. This improves self-control, makes you nicer, more forgiving, improves trust and offsets the negative health effects of stress. (No wonder Jesus was such a fan!)
- Mindfulness and contemplation have been shown to help with everything from anxiety, depression and cardiovascular problems to cancer. How? By quieting the mind, it allows us to live more fully in the present moment. This increases relaxation and allows us to connect with both ourselves and with God. How do we do this? I have found meditation teachings of Fr. John Main and Fr. Lawrence Freemen to be insanely simple and helpful.
How can we bring this all together?
After tinkering with various combinations of these brain-healthy prayer forms, I have settled on a morning routine that is uber-practical and helpful most mornings. Here’s how it works:
- I use a free meditation app and set the timer for 25 minutes, with a reminder bell that dings at the 3, 21 and 25 minute marks to signal the following three parts of my prayer:
- I spend the first three minutes thanking God for blessings and gifts. I work to keep it creative so I’m not repeating the same things every day.
- I then spend 18 minutes practicing Christian Meditation, sitting in silence and stillness. Here are the simple instructions.
- For the last four minutes I pray for people, visualizing God’s love flowing over and through them. I also pray through my schedule of the upcoming day, visualizing Jesus pouring love and healing through me in and through the people I will see that day.
Let’s keep the fun of Lent going by re-charging our prayer lives. Using tips from brain scientists we can expect to be transformed into more positive, joyful, loving and productive people.