When someone approaches me in regards to spiritual disciplines my first comparison is that of physical exercise. A really short definition of a discipline is training. As someone who used to run a lot, I can tell you that you don’t just run a 5k without some training – especially if you’ve never run before. Spiritual disciplines are really designed to orient us to better hear God’s voice. Yet, it’s been my experience that we don’t incorporate spiritual disciplines because it takes time, effort, and we don’t experience immediate results. This is why I believe physical exercise is a great comparison. We don’t build muscle or shed pounds overnight. And, because our life is so full of distractions, we don’t often hear God’s voice clearly because we haven’t taken time to dull those distractions to hear Him.
A couple of years ago I read a fantastic book on this subject entitled Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton. She describes the need for Solitude and Silence by using an example of a glass full of river water. At first, the water is murky and cloudy. Yet over time the sediments will sink to the bottom and one will be able to discern the layers in the glass.
Carving out space for spiritual disciplines and contemplative activities allow us to “see” the layers in our own souls. Not only will we discover roadblocks and areas for growth; we also clear space to more accurately and clearly hear God above the noise of our everyday lives. I don’t know of a more crucial endeavor than to take time to simply sit before God and allow Him to speak and to uncover places within us that need healing and restoration. The problem is that this discipline takes time. The other reality is that silence and solitude is a process. Some individuals report that they didn’t begin reaping benefits of this practice until at least a month of dedicating some space to this process.
I’ve found that Anglican prayer beads are a great conduit to jump-start the journey of a regular time of contemplation. By praying through a system, using prayer beads as a guide, we allow ourselves to become accustomed to slowing down and allowing the Holy Spirit to carry out His working within us.
The first step is to acquire some prayer beads. My wife purchased a set of prayer beads from fullcirclebeads.com. Full Circle has a great and beautiful selection of prayer beads in addition to guidance on how to best implement the “prayer bead” methodology. However, they are a bit spendy. You do get what you pay for as they are excellent in terms of quality and design. Yet, if you are a thrifty sort of person you can make your own for around 10 bucks. I purchased my beads, beading wire, and a cross from a big box store and I’m pleased with the results. It should also be noted that I am not ‘crafty’ by nature. So, if I can make a set, I’m quite certain you can as well.
The second step is pretty simple. Find a quiet space and pick a prayer to use. A listing of prayers is found here: http://www.fullcirclebeads.com/prayers.html This link also includes steps for using your prayer beads.
I’ve personally found the benefits of prayer beads quite significant in my personal quiet time. It’s a very centering experience as praying through these ancient prayers truly does help me connect with God. Not every experience is a “heaven opening” time – but just as with physical exercise, some days are better than others. I believe the point is to continue to put ourselves in optimum places for God to speak.
During the season of Lent many individuals incorporate new spiritual disciplines and fasting to draw nearer to God. Take a leap and experiment praying with prayer beads during the remainder of Lent. It may result in a practice that will extend far beyond the Lenten season.