The prayer of the presence of Jesus and Christian mindfulness are two parts of a whole: the experience of abiding in Jesus.
In their book “Practicing the Prayer of Presence,” Adrian van Kaan and Susan Muto wrote: “The best way to cope with suffering is not stoic indifference or pessimistic complaints, but constant conversation with God in all matters, great or small, at all times and in all places.
“A deeper way of learning to pray is to try to live in the presence of God. This is the beginning of always praying as the Gospels and St. Paul recommend. We try in a relaxed way to become aware of His Presence all the time we are awake. We need the grace of quiet concentration and perseverance to develop this habit.
“If we practice the prayer of Presence, we will be better able to check our speech. Is it agitated, restless, disquieted? Or is it calm, deliberate and quietly rooted in Christ, who is our Way, Truth and Life?”
What they are talking about has similarities to secular meditation and mindfulness. But it is quite different. What the world calls meditation is just a preliminary step that Christians call “recollection” exercises. It is necessary to bring our spirit together again in inner stillness if we want to be fully present to the Lord.
The aim of Christian mindfulness meditation is:
- To make our minds familiar with the truths of God.
- To dwell on those truths.
- To apply the insights we receive to our lives.
One of the reasons that mindfulness is a popular today is that research shows that it helps to reduce stress and even pain. Mindfulness can release the mind from an overgeneralized state. It relieves the automatic brooding, avoidant mind. Loving kindness meditation and kindness to one’s self also help to decrease the fears that come from feeling responsible when anything goes wrong. Being overly responsible is an issue I have.
Abiding in the Lord has elements of this mindfulness: seeking to concentrate on the present moment. “The day’s own trouble is sufficient for the day,” as Jesus said. But it goes beyond that to recognize that God is present in the here and now. God is here. God is now.
The condition to receive the presence of God is emptiness. We must empty ourselves inwardly of all that is not God, including distraction, agitation, fear and nervous tension. All must give way to the flow of quiet presence.
The person who is experienced with this kind of effort is not a person whose mind does not wander. Everyone’s mind wanders. The experienced person is someone who gets very used to beginning again and again and again.