Spirit Alive: Are You Praying or Just Fidgeting?

Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and beyond.
November 14, 2017

With Heart, Soul, and Mind:

Finding New Ways to Let Prayer Fill Your Life

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks,
for this is the will of God in Christ for you."
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
"Pray as you can, not as you can't."
Dom Chapman
OK...let me confess right up front: I am often way behind the curve when it comes to the latest fads. Take, for example, the popular gizmo known as the fidget or focus spinner that was all the rage back in the
spring. Originally hailed as a tool to help children focus and even deal with anxiety and attention problems, for many teachers this tool became a classroom distraction itself. In some schools, teachers said that half their students were using them. USA Today reported that "the twirling, hand-held toys at times exasperated teachers and distracted students." That clearly wasn't their original intent, but for some it unfortunately became the result.
And then this fall, the fidget spinners suddenly seemed to disappear. Again from a recent USA Today article: "Since school started this fall, few if any students are bringing the gizmos to class, educators said." So, like many other things these days, it's as if they were simply allocated Andy Warhol's "fifteen minutes of fame," and then replaced by something new. Increasingly, our world seems to work this way. It is hard to focus on anything for very long. There's simply too much to pay attention to, which leads me to the subject of prayer...and focus spinners.
I find it hard to live the life of "unceasing prayer" that Paul speaks about in his epistle to the Thessalonians. It's just too easy to get distracted and not be spiritually grounded. I try my best, but the truth of the matter is that I need prayer prompts around me. They help me remember what it means to be centered. So what do focus spinners have to do with this?
Well...I got my first focus spinner in August, just in time to learn that the interest in them had all but disappeared as students went back to school. Maybe this explains why I was able to buy several of them at such a cheap price!
But since buying my spinners, I have placed them in several locations around our house...places where I pause on a daily basis to read or write, meditate or have breakfast. And they serve a purpose there: I simply give the gadget a spin and focus my attention in prayer until it stops. It doesn't last long, but this brief minute or two helps me center my spirit and re-focus my attention. The package for my focus spinners says it well: "Focus Spinner, long spins, great for anxiety, relieves stress, increases creativity...high quality bearings...for ages 8 and older...lifetime warranty." These words could describe prayer as well.
I'm not sure I'll always use them as a tool for prayer, but since I'm constantly looking for ways to remind myself to pray "without ceasing," having a few Focus Spinners around seems to help out these days.
It's so easy to move from event-to-event, task-to-task without pausing long enough to offer prayers for others, reflect on the concerns of the world...offer gratitude for life's blessings. Taking a "prayer spin" from time-to-time helps, especially in these difficult days, when there is so much suffering and chaos in the world.
Over the years, we, as Christians, have attempted to deepen our prayer lives in a variety of ways...from saying a blessing before a meal to using prayer beads, from taking walks in nature to singing Gregorian chants...to utilizing more modern Taize- style liturgies to help us center ourselves. The intent is always the same: to deepen our connection with God and neighbor, to ground ourselves and connect with the Holy Spirit, to meditate on life and offer our gratitude.
So...I'd invite you right now to try using a simple prayer prompt...the focus spinner...as a tool for centering in prayer. All you have to do is click on this brief video and see what happens. My hope is that it gives you another way to center your spirit and connect with God. Don't worry, no one's watching.

Don't have a spinner? Watch mine
The truth of the matter is we don't really need objects or tools to pray. All we need is to take time to commune and communicate with God. But what I have learned over the years is that sometimes I need prompts in my life in order to do this.
Clearly, times set aside at the beginning of the day....or to bless a meal...or to worship on Sundays help one enter a life of prayer. But, when prompted throughout the day, prayer can become a richer part of our lives. In her book, Prayer on Wings: A Search for Authentic Prayer, Carolyn Stahl Bohler writes: "Prayer is a living and dynamic activity. It can be-- should be-- an adventure."
My prayer is that your prayer-life will continue to deepen and grow...and in the process, become an adventure that grounds your spirit and expands your connection with God and neighbor.

SPOILER ALERT: Speaking of prayer, in the coming weeks you will be invited to pray for the United Methodist Church and the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. Our week, as an annual conference, to pray for the Commission will be December 10-16. Look for details in upcoming annual conference communications.

Let us walk in the light of God's love,

Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.


Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org