For me, prayer can take a variety of forms. Sometimes, I comment on the text I am reading for an entire hour, or (more often) at some point during my prayer hour. This especially helps me when I’m in a particularly fowl mood, since it gets my mind off of myself. Plus, the words flow out better when there’s a bitter taste in my mouth!
When I’m in one of my loathsome giddy moods, however, I have a hard time sustaining a lecture on a religious topic. What I do in that case is to read the text over again. Right now, I’m reading the Koran, and my goal for my current daily quiet time is to read it twice. I read two pages for each prayer hour, and, at some point in the future, I will read all of those pages again. Often, my “catch-up” second reading can be twenty or thirty pages, and it’s helpful because it gives me more of a “big picture” look at the Koran as well as solidifies concepts that I may not have understood or even seen in my first reading.
I don’t always comment on the Koran for the entire hour. In many cases, the Koran seems to repeat the same information over and over: don’t associate compeers with Allah, evil-doers will burn in hell forever, etc., etc. I can only cover the same ground so much! But there are times when the Koran presents something different, such as a point of Muslim law, or a different understanding of a Bible story, or stories of prophets who are unfamiliar to me, or scattered statements that puzzle me and make me think. I usually encounter these things in my second reading.
There are prayer hours when I comment on the Koran, and there are other prayer hours in which I don’t discuss it at all. But I still feel like my daily quiet time on the whole is a serious treatment of the book–serious in terms of what I want to accomplish: reading the book and thinking about what I read, whenever such activity occurs. It doesn’t happen in every daily quiet time, but it happens in a lot of them.
What do I think about when I’m not meditating on the Koran? Events in my life. My plans for the day, week, or year. Personal growth. Spirituality. Politics. Religion. Movies. TV shows. My personal rants. I’m quite open and honest with God. Some may think this is appropriate. Some may not. Whatever people may think, it’s how I pray.
Yesterday, I did something different. I didn’t feel like reading, and I didn’t feel like lecturing. So what I did was breathe deeply and comment every now and then. I didn’t hear a profound message from God in the silence, but it was relaxing! And it was so different! I often feel like I have to be doing something or receive external stimuli. I have to talk, or read, or watch TV, or work, or play around on the Internet. Why can’t I just be? And breathe?
I’m not going to make this a legalistic requirement for my future prayer times. Maybe I’ll want to read or talk on certain days. But I’ll feel free to be and to breathe without guilt. Why should I always have to do something in prayer?