1. Consider gardening a sacred activity.
Allow yourself enough time to attend carefully to each task, whether it is planting, weeding, watering, or other care. Offer the plant to God, and ask God’s help and blessing on the growth of the garden and on the end results of its fruits. And when it’s time to harvest the tomatoes or cucumbers or herbs, your prayer can then move right along to the preparing of a meal and thanksgiving and the community of a shared table.
2. Do walking prayer.
In the late 1990s, an evangelical movement enjoyed some popularity—it was called Prayer Walking, and it involved walking specific neighborhoods and praying over those homes and people. The idea was to prepare the area for evangelism and to do so by involving lay people as well as clergy in walking their neighborhoods, assessing needs, and bringing those community needs to God in prayer. I think that walking prayer can be quite helpful in a number of situations—say, if you’re just having a hard time sitting still for prayer. Some seasons of life bring anxiety, unsettledness, “the fidgets.” If you can’t hold still for your prayer time, then walk around. There was a time when I lived in another region of the world where a woman could not just go out walking by herself. So I did a lot of praying while pacing the long hallway in my apartment. The walking released pent-up sorrow and worry. By pacing, I was able to pray for fairly long periods of time. I paced inside, but I could have walked in my own yard as well. Most of us live near some sort of walking paths—parks, country roads, bike paths. Walking brings our prayer into contact with the earth, at each step. Such walking can also enable us to gaze at trees, skies, and other aspects of our environment.
3. Spend still time outdoors.
Many of us can remember a favorite tree from childhood where we would go hide out to read or daydream or, in general, get away from other people and from the day’s stresses. That’s still an excellent idea. Do you have a favorite tree or some area of your yard, porch, or patio where you can sit still, breathe in the breezes, feel the sun or mist, look up close at leaves, birds, and insects? I have a hammock in my backyard, and it’s almost impossible to be stressed while I’m lying there. I’m looking up at tree branches and the sky—whether in the day or night—and I can feel my inner self sigh and expand. This is one way I pray.
4. Use labyrinths, gardens, Stations of the Cross, and other outdoor configurations conducive to prayer.
Although labyrinths predate Christianity, Christians have been using labyrinths for prayer since the Middle Ages. Many Christians would walk a labyrinth in place of making the dangerous pilgrimage to Jerusalem. For centuries, the act of walking along a pattern has helped people still their thoughts and focus on specific prayers. Gardens are designed to provide beauty, silence, bird song, and fragrance; in a way, a garden’s appeal to the physical senses is similar to what we experience in worship through colors, tapestries, incense, and music. If you have a favorite garden spot, allow it to enhance your prayer. Stations of the Cross, when installed outdoors, can be quite powerful journeys through the story of Jesus and through our own stories of death and resurrection. One of my most significant prayers occurred when I walked the Stations out in the Sonoran Desert—the landscape brought my imagination much closer to desolation, suffering, and the lonely silence of death.
5. Take a walk and pay attention.
It really doesn’t matter if you walk a path that is part of your routine—such as a few blocks on your morning commute—or if you walk in a completely new place. Paying attention changes the experience wherever you are. Ask God to open all your physical senses and your heart. Take a few notes. Pause and write about your experience or simply say a short prayer of praise, wonder, curiosity, or joy. Stop and sing. Stop and breathe deeply. Notice what is right there with you.
- Try a form of grounding prayer this week that you haven’t tried before or haven’t practiced in a while.
- Let us know how you brought together your interior world with God’s created world.
This post is part of a series: Praying Through the Summer.