40 Ways To Spend 5 Minutes With God
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You’ve done it! If you are taking some time to read through this, then you have begun praying already. Notice why you are reading this guide. Perhaps you have always thought you were bad at prayer and you need some help. Perhaps you are skeptical. Five minutes? Really? What can five minutes do? Perhaps you are a newer Christian and you feel like you just don’t understand what prayer is. Perhaps you are an older Christian who is bored with your faith and you want to imagine what more you can discover with God?

Your first five minutes of prayer…

The first step is to use five minutes to prayerfully read through this guide. Familiarize yourself with it and discern what you might use tomorrow for your next five minutes of prayer. Consider how much of your life is already governed by small daily practices: putting on clothes, making a quick breakfast, gathering all your things before you head out the door, making a cup of coffee, checking your email, brushing your teeth and washing your face before bed…. We give ourselves to all these basic practices that shape our days. Imagine what could happen to you if you simply added five minutes daily with God to these routines.

40? Really?

The list of prayer methods below is not intended to intimidate you but to give you hope. There are so many ways! Prayer should never be boring! There is much to explore!

Yet perhaps you picked up this set of prayers on a whim and now you are looking over the pages feeling overwhelmed or even confused. Please be patient with yourself and with what might lie ahead for you. Many of us who have been going to church for quite awhile are still intimidated and restless when it comes to prayer; we have not yet learned how easy prayer is.

Perhaps the hardest thing about prayer is accepting how easy it is. The difficulty is not with prayer itself. Prayer is our greatest help. It can fill us with the deepest delights, as the Psalmist says, In your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand are pleasures eternal. (Psalm 16) The difficulty is surrendering ourselves. We don’t like wasting our precious time and attention, especially on a God we cannot see with our eyes. By saying that prayer is easy, we mean that once we begin—once we create a space and a time for God—he will by his Spirit meet us and draw us deeper into his love. Once we begin in prayer, we learn that this is what we were originally created for.

If prayer is so easy then how do we begin?

Prayer is simply responding to Jesus’ invitation to enjoy his love. Prayer is not a matter of dutifully folding our hands, closing our eyes, and asking God to help us with a list of needs. Our need for God is much deeper than any single prayer concern. Prayer is about opening ourselves to the presence of God so that his love will saturate all that we do—all our concerns, health, family, friends, work and play…our past, present, and future.

Yes, but how do we accept this invitation and enjoy God’s presence?

Here is where we must risk. We just do it. We simply set aside a place and time and take the risk of opening our lives to God. We risk in faith that God is near and that he will reveal himself to us. He will reveal himself to each of us in different ways, and we can begin to sense his presence and hear his voice best when we open ourselves to him regularly day by day.

It will seem like a risk at first, so it is best to start small by setting aside only five minutes each day. For most of us it is best to not try more than five or ten minutes because then we feel the heavy expectation that tomorrow needs to be as earnest as yesterday. This is a great hindrance to prayer: expectation—the false idea that only big, long, and serious prayers will change us. This kind of expectation turns out to be more about us, about our spiritual power than about the loving presence of God.

How to use this guide…

Prayer requires us to engage the whole of ourselves, to bring every aspect of being to God as a living sacrifice. Some of us by nature and nurture tend to function more from the heart and others from the mind, some from the soul and some from strength. I recommend that you begin by picking an approach to prayer that emphasizes your personality. Look over the list of prayer ideas below and begin with the option that makes the most sense. Choose something that seems easy and comfortable.  Then later in your journey you can choose an approach that seems less familiar and stretch yourself.

It is not that these approaches to prayer below are exclusively a function of one part of our selves. There will be lots of overlap in each. Think instead of where your prayer begins. For example, you may begin focusing on what is moving in your heart but as you do this, your mind and soul are engaged and eventually your strength as well. The soul practices are perhaps the only methods that should eventually move you toward your inner self without any particular attention given to your emotions or thoughts. Yet it is necessary to still use your mind and heart to arrive at that kind of soul stillness…be still and know that I am God.

To Love God With All Your HEART

1. Read a short passage of Scripture paying attention to what word or short phrase stirs your heart. Write that word or phrase in a journal. Then write and reflect on how these words help you love God.

2. Read a short passage of Scripture paying attention to what word or short phrase stirs your heart. Then sit quietly and say that word or phrase lovingly back to God.

3. Read a short passage of Scripture and then re-write the passage in a journal in the form of a prayer (e.g. From John 3:16: Help me understand how you love the whole world so much that you sent Jesus to die for us. Help me to more deeply believe in your saving power in my life and in those around me). Now pray the prayer you have composed. You can even write it down on a small piece of paper to carry with you so you can turn to it throughout the day.

4. Spend a few minutes listing in a journal several things that you have loved in the past day. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind whether it seems small or great.

5. In the evening or right before bed sit quietly and quickly scan your memory of each hour of your day’s activities paying attention to the things that especially stir your heart. Finish by offering thanks to God for these gifts.

6. Spend your five minutes of prayer sitting quietly considering this: what is it that I really desire and hunger for right in this moment? Pay attention to the strongest movements of your heart and then ask God to guide you through these desires.

7. As you consider what it is that you really want in your heart, you may discover that your desires can lead you away from God’s love. Spend five minutes confessing to God that you need God’s help to purify your heart.

8. As you consider what it is that you really want in your heart, you may be afraid of your big desires. Perhaps you assume that you’ll never get what you really want. Spend five minutes considering whether God placed that desire in your heart.

9. Spend your five minutes of prayer sitting quietly considering this: what do I fear? In a journal make a long list of everything that concerns you. Do this quickly without trying to be exhaustive. Notice what concerns seem especially swollen and difficult. Then ask God to bring peace into this situation.

10. If you already carry great wounds and fears in your heart, spend a few minutes imagining what it would be like if your worst fears came true. Then spend the rest of your prayer imagining how God could bring life, peace, and love even into this worst-case scenario.

To Love God With All Your MIND

11. Read as much of a book of the Bible as you can within five minutes. Read daily and you can quickly complete the whole book. As you read, focus on the words without rushing. Pay attention to what makes sense and don’t worry about the parts that don’t make sense.

12.Daily read these longer passages of Scripture out loud to yourself.

13. Daily read these longer passages out loud to others.

14. Read a short passage of Scripture paying attention to what word or short phrase inspires you to meditate on ideas about God. Write the word or phrase in a journal and then reflect in writing why this Scripture helps you make more sense of God, of yourself, of others, or the world.

15. Or, instead of writing about the phrase, seek out someone you find particularly thoughtful and ask them to discuss the word or phrase with you. This could be a phone call on the way to work, a planned coffee break at work with a co-worker, a topic for dinner conversation or even a quick email to a friend or pastor.

16. Read a short passage of Scripture and identify a troubling or puzzling question. In a journal write out two or three possible ways you might answer this question.

17. Read a passage of Scripture twice in two different translations of the Bible. Doing this with The Message is highly recommended.

18. As you read Scripture, identify key words or phrases that seem important to the biblical author. Note how many times that key word or phrase is used in a longer passage.

19. If you have identified a key word or phrase, do a quick word study using a concordance or Bible dictionary. Notice how the word is used in different parts of the Bible. Blue Letter Bible is any easy-to-use resource for this

20. Spend your five minutes reading an inspirational spiritual author, a theologian, or a catechism.

To Love God With All Your SOUL

 21. Read through a short passage of Scripture (three to five verses) three times. Sit quietly at rest between each reading. Focus on being with and near the passage without trying to figure it out with your mind.

22. Read a short passage of Scripture paying attention to what word or short phrase stirs inside of you. Sit quietly saying the word or phrase repeatedly allowing it to move from your mind down into the center of your being.

23. Read a short passage of Scripture and then imaginatively place yourself inside of the passage. This is an especially simple practice if it is a story either from the Old Testament or a Gospel because you can pretend you are one of the characters in that story. Allow your imagination to play through the scene a few times. Simply be present in the story without trying to figure out it’s meaning.

24. Memorize a passage of Scripture or a classic prayer and recite it slowly two or three times. Sit quietly at rest between each recitation. The Eastern Orthodox Jesus Prayer is used this way (Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner) and can be repeated several times to calm and focus your soul and help you remain open to God’s presence.

25. Take a short walk in nature on a beautiful day. Even a walk around the block can help you slow your breathing and turn away from anxious thoughts in order to more easily open yourself to God’s presence.

26. Prepare a special place in your home that helps you be quiet. Use a good chair that will keep your back upright or sit attentively on the floor. Practice silence for your five minutes. Do not feel guilty when distracting thoughts come. Simply offer those thoughts back to God placing them under his care and work to still your soul. For some people it is helpful simply to write down those distracting thoughts in order to move on from them.

27. Place religious pictures, a cross, or any kind of meaningful art your prayer space that will especially help you shift yourself away from stress and busyness and into God’s presence. When distracting thoughts arise, open your eyes and gaze at your favorite image. With practice a particular image can be something you use to remind you to retreat back into stillness.

28. Wear a piece of religious jewelry, a cross or a special ring. Throughout the day when you find yourself especially anxious, take the cross or ring off and hold it in your hands. As a special gift of jewelry from a loved one reminds you of that relationship, so can this piece of jewelry be a reminder of your relationship with God. It can help you rediscover stillness in the midst of busyness and distractions.

29. Use a candle during your time of prayer. Sit calmly watching the movements of the flame. Allow the candle to focus your attention on stillness.

30. Create more space for God throughout your day by eliminating some unnecessary daily habit. Remove some or all internet access, news, music, email or texts from your morning routine, your drive to work, during a lunch break, from dinner through bed or even throughout a whole day. Allow God to fill this new empty space for God. Use your five minutes to reflect on how this kind of fasting is affecting your openness to God.

To Love God With All Your STRENGTH

 31. Identify a call to action. Read a short passage of Scripture carefully and then prayerfully identify one specific way that you can respond to the passage with your words and actions that day. How can you risk in faith this day?

32. Find a Gospel account of Jesus’ or the apostles’ ministry. Read through the passage and allow it to enlarge your sense of God’s mission to build his kingdom on this earth through you.

33. The Benedictine monks teach “Laborare est Orare,” work is prayer. Whether you are a stay at home parent, on a construction site or work in an office cubicle, use your five minutes to imagine how God is and can be involved in all that you do.

34. Give thanks for the gift of your body and of your health. Meditate on how you are and are not loving God through all of your body. Consider what joy you already have in knowing how to live in the uniqueness of your body. Also consider ways that you can better care for your body with better nutrition, diet, exercise and sleep.

35. Make a list in a journal of all the ways that you are strong. Identify all of your gifts and talents—physical, emotional, intellectual strengths. List even the things that you are marginally good at. Deepen your sense of how God can and will work uniquely through you to build his kingdom.

36. As you consider your gifts, use your five minutes of prayer considering God’s faithful work through you in the past. List several ways that you know God has already shown himself through you.

37. Consider your gifts further by reflecting prayerfully in a journal about how God is currently working through you.

38. Consider how you would like to serve God in the future. Meditate on who you are becoming as a person. Who will you be in six months or a year? How can God transform you into someone who more lovingly gives of his or her time, energy, talent and money?

39. If you want to further express your ability to love God with all of your strength, consider how you might intentionally create more time for prayer. Perhaps you can lengthen one single time of prayer to ten or fifteen minutes. Or you might want to choose five minutes in the morning and another five minutes in the evening. Some find it helpful to turn their work into prayer by praying briefly during a coffee or lunch break.

40. Another significant way to demonstrate your strong love for God is by risking with types of worship and prayer that do not come naturally to you. Stretch your faith by practicing a new prayer method even if is seems strange and uncomfortable at first.

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)

If you have any questions about this prayer guide or anything else dealing with spiritual formation, please feel free to contact Josh Banner.