Tag Archives: prayer

Thoughts on Mono-tasking

Sculpting Group Thoughts on Mono-tasking

Anthony Bloom (Medical Doctor/Orthodox Archbishop): “You can simply be completely concerned with the person or task that is in front of you, and when you have finished you will discover that you have spent half the time doing it . . . yet you have seen everything and heard everything.” Beginning to Pray

I am laying on the bed/table in the emergency room with a thumb infection that got out of hand and thinking about the challenges of the emergency room doctor. My doctor, Andy, was coming in soon to do a small surgery on my thumb. In the room next to me a man was having a heart attack and in the room beyond that a young child was crying about some illness or injury. What a challenge to move quickly from diverse situations and be fully present for each. As he walks in the door of each room Andy needs to become intellectually and emotionally focused on the situation right in front of him. Mono-tasking.

Before becoming a priest and then Archbishop, Anthony Bloom worked as a medical doctor. He tells a story of his discovery of the benefits of mono-tasking in Beginning to Pray. Dr. Bloom had a doctor’s office like most of us have experienced with a waiting full of patients (patiently?) waiting to be seen. On the first day of his practice Dr. Bloom found that as he sat in his consulting room questioning a patient he had in his mind’s eye the many waiting patients in the next room. He felt he should be as quick as possible in the consulting room so as to help the next person.

Dr. Bloom was multitasking; Thinking of patients in one room while consulting with patients in another. Like our brains, his brain couldn’t do both simultaneously. Bloom observed that in the consulting room, “The result was that all the questions I asked I had to ask twice all the examinations I made I had to make twice or even three times.”

This multitasking was not working so Bloom changed tactics to mono-tasking. “I decided that I would behave as if the person who was with me was the only one who existed.” Once he changed to the mono-task method Bloom found examinations took half the time and he experienced less inner tension and agitation. Bloom felt a greater mastery over time and the ability to keep the storms of life on then outside and prayerful peace on the inside.

Using our strength to sculpt our heart, soul, and mind to love God and our neighbor.


Sculpting Project Seven: Flash Prayers: Week 2

Sculpting Project Seven: Flash Prayers: Week 2

Time is never my problem. Sculpting Projects don’t take time. OK, a little time, but so little it is barely measurable. The issue for me is not time, it is intention followed by choice. Choosing to sculpt takes grit.

Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals.

Grit, a new term I’m finding in psychology studies, is considered a helpful character trait.
Who has grit?

Consider the runner training for the Olympics. Perseverance and passion for long-term goals.
. . . let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus. . . Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Grit pays off. There is a prize.

Changes you can experience with regular sculpting:
An increased sense of connection with God.
A greater love for others.
Increased well-being in yourself.

Some thoughts from our Sculpting Group:

Sculpting is working! These practices are becoming part of daily life- without thinking about it! Kathy

I am so thankful for this group! I have incorporated our practices In my daily spiritual disciplines. I now automatically recite the Jesus prayer or a hymn phrase when I walk in the afternoons. Slow bites actually happened this afternoon with a rare Tootsie Pop. I practice slow breathing when I listen to the Psalm in the sung Compline each night before sleep. Three Things are also a part of my nighttime prayer. I am especially appreciating Flash Praying. It keeps me praying instead of judging. Marti

On Flash Prayers:
I love Flash praying. It is a great way to be simultaneously mindful and loving towards God and our neighbors. David

Some members have found Flash Prayers to be mood lifter. Why?

For some, Flash Prayers help change focus. “They get me out of myself.”
For some, Flash Prayers change a critical attitude about others to a caring one.
Any other thoughts on this?

Share what you are discovering. Good discoveries and not so good ones welcomed.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. Then secondly, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

Using our strength to sculpt our heart, soul, and mind to love God and our neighbor.

Sculpting Project Seven: Flash Prayers: Week 1

Sculpting Project Seven: Flash Prayers: Week 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMacrina is softly snoring as she lays on the shearing table. She wakes from time to time suggesting I should give her another bite of grain and then settles down to rest some more. Shearing is a slow process at my house. I use care and a good pair of scissors. After a little over two hours I have a wash tub full of mohair and a much thinner angora goat.

I have sheared many times so the process does not require my full concentration and I find my mind wandering as Macrina snores. This week I decide to use the shearing time for my Sculpting Project. Each time I notice that my mind has wandered from shearing I send a quick Flash Prayer to God about what or whoever I am thinking about. Our new priest comes to mind, so I pray for him. “Jesus, pour your blessings on him.” My daughters come to mind. “Jesus, fill their day with Your gifts.” The two hours carry on with many more people, plans, and challenging situations coming to my mind. Whenever I remember, I send a Flash Prayer.

As I bring skinny Macrina back to her yard I notice that I am in a much better frame of mind. I wonder if it has anything to do with praying for people instead of ruminating about them. And then there is also the rich possibility that my Flash Prayers have made a difference in the world.


Brother Lawrence was my high school hero and one of the founders of this Sculpting Group. He introduced me to the challenging practice of keeping my mind on Jesus. In college I discovered a copy of Practicing the Presence of God that was bound with a collection of writings by Dr. Frank Laubach. Laubach, a Presbyterian Missionary renowned for his work in raising literacy worldwide, had a passion and plan for practicing God’s presence.

Our Sculpting Project, Flash Prayers, is one of Laubach’s “games” for keeping his mind on Jesus. As Laubach rode on buses or walked in crowds, or sat in meetings he would flash a prayer for individuals around him. He observed many reactions to his Flash Prayers such as bus passengers smiling and looking around as if talked to. When in meetings, “The atmosphere of a room changes when a few people keep whispering to God about all the rest.” Laubach asserted.


Two ways to do Flash Prayers:

Pick a period of time each day to practice. (Ex. When you are shopping or when you do an activity that requires low mental focus.)

1. When you are with other people flash a prayer for them. Keep it simple. ‘Jesus’, or ‘Pour your Blessings’. Or another prayer that feels right to you.
2 .When someone comes to your mind flash a prayer for them. Don’t just think about people, pray for them.

What to Say?
The content of Flash Prayers is usually simple.

My personal generic Flash Prayer is “Lord, pour your blessings on ________.” Sometimes I say a more specific prayer if I sense a need.

Laubach’s were often just the name “Jesus.” That was all. He was bringing Jesus to people and people to Jesus.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6: 18

Communication encourages fellow sculptors.


Sculpting Project Six: The Gift of Breath: Week 2

Sculpting Project Six: The Gift of Breath Week 2

Sneeze, sniff. I sit down to do my Centering Prayer Project. I can’t seem to settle into the quiet of this prayer method. Sniff. Sure, I have a cold but I don’t feel that badly. “Why is Centering Prayer so hard today?” That was the day I realized how central the simple inhale through my nose was to my ability to do Centering Prayer.

Our style of breath is a powerful tool for shaping mind, body and soul.

There are many ways of altering your breath to promote health for your body, improve mental functioning, and control emotions. There are breathing methods for assistance with panic attacks, blood pressure, heartburn, asthma, stress, pain, energy, sleep and more. Athletics and CEO’s use methods to improve performance.

Here are some examples:

To increase oxygen intake and enjoy the many benefits of more oxygen in your brain and blood:

1. Inhale deeply taking in as much air as you can. (Then inhale even more.)
2. Hold the breath briefly (until it becomes uncomfortable).
3. Exhale through pursed lips as much as you can blow out. (Then blow out more.)

Managing Depression (The Mindful Way through Depression, Mark Williams and others):

Method 1: Pay attention to Breath. This is the first project choice from last week.

Method 2: Breath Into. (also useful for pain management)
Locate a part of your body where you are experiencing a sensation and focus on’ breathing into’ that place.

Method 3: Breathing With. Whatever we are doing we are breathing. It is the background to all our thoughts and activities. ‘Breathing With’ is bringing this background of breath to our awareness. Continually become aware of your breath.

Breath is also a tool to assist us in Christian prayer practices.
A couple of examples from history:
Ignatius of Loyola suggested we use a rhythm of breathing while saying the Lord ’s Prayer.
Eastern Orthodox teachers tell us to use breath to focus on our heart and soul and then God.

Ideas to expand our use of breath and prayer:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpiritual breathing: as soon as we become aware of a sin we exhale our confession of sin and inhale God’s cleansing forgiveness.
As you inhale think of breathing in God’s gift, the breath of life, as you exhale think of giving yourself to God.
Inhaling, ask for the filling with the Holy Spirit and as you exhale ask to be living out the fruits of the Spirit.
Silently say a prayer phrase with each inhale and exhale. Such as inhale, ‘Thank-you Lord’, exhale, ‘have mercy on me.’
Recite a portion of Scripture with each breath. Such as inhale, ‘let every thing that has breath’ exhale ‘praise the Lord’ Ps. 150:6. Or inhale, ‘don’t worry about anything’, exhale, ‘pray about everything’ Phil 4:6.

Communicate. Tell fellow sculptors how your projects are going. We need each other.

A Little Bible Study

Breath has two main Hebrew words nesh-aw-maw’ (puff) roo’-akh (wind) and two main N.T. Greek words e-mi-phu-saw and ph-ne-o.
These are usually translated “spirit’ in N.T.
In the very beginning (Gen 1:2) the roo’akh (spirit/ breath/wind) is moving over the surface of the waters.
In Gen 2:7 God formed Adam from “the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”
It is God who continues gives life and breath to all living things (Acts 17:25).
The breath of God is powerful; creative power and destructive power. The host of heaven was created by the breath of God’s mouth (Ps. 33:6) and the enemy was destroyed by the breath of God’s mouth (2 Sam. 22:16).
It was breath that brought the Holy Spirit to the disciples in a whole new way. In John 20:22 when Jesus came to visit his disciples after his resurrection he gave them his peace and then breathing on the disciples he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
In both Hebrew and Greek the words we use to translate breath and Spirit are often the same words.


Sculpting Project Three: The Jesus Prayer, Week 2

Sculpting Group: Jesus Prayer Project Week Two

Sculpting Notes:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Brain and Repeated Prayer:
Repetition is like creating a rut in a muddy road. When the road dries the rut is still there and we easily steer into it. When we say something over and over we build a strong pathway in the brain. Like ruts in a dirt road we easily fall into whatever we have repeated. Some of the things we repeat to ourselves are not helpful ruts. Repeating the Jesus Prayer and other desired phrases creates ruts that we will find helpful. Now and in the future dry days.

This is your sculpting project. So try it on, remembering that one size does not fit all. Make adjustments in the project so it fits your mind, heart and soul.

Some adjustment fellow sculptors have made in this project:

1. Saying the Jesus Prayer in 30 sec. segments throughout the day. (Instead of one block of time.)
2. Changing the words of the Jesus Prayer to “Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with your (light, love, hope, . . .).”
3. Saying a different prayer or phrase. “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty . . .”, “ Thy Will be done.”
4. Singing the Jesus Prayer.

A little theology to inform your prayer.
Lord: recognizing authority, both personally and in the larger society.
Jesus: the factual, historical person. Name means: savior.
Christ: Anointed One, Messiah.
Son of God: Special relationship with God. Deity.
Have mercy on me: God is able and willing to be merciful and wants relationship with us.
Sinner: Created beautiful, but we have fallen from some of that beauty and need restoration.


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. Then secondly, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31
Using our strength to sculpt our heart, soul, and mind to love God and our neighbor.
1 Cor. 10:31


Sculpting Project Three: The Jesus Prayer, Week 1

Sculpting Group: Jesus Prayer Project Week Two

The Third Sculpting project: The Jesus Prayer Week 1

Repetition leads to habit, habit leads to second nature. St. Isihios

It was 18 below and 12:00 midnight when Evan drove me past the bank clock. Now I’m laying in the birthing room in the last phase of contractions. Breathe-in “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” Breathe-out “have mercy on me a sinner.” Repeat. Repeat again. Two hours later Terese arrives. I don’t remember when I first learned the Jesus Prayer but this was my most memorable use.




Two week Sculpting project: The Jesus Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.

This ancient prayer tradition from the Christian Orthodox Church came to my attention through the book The Way of a Pilgrim. On an autumn Sunday in the 1850’s a Russian peasant heard the reading of 1st Thessalonians 5:17 admonishing him to, “Pray without ceasing.” He took the verse to heart but felt very perplexed as to how to accomplish it. So he traveled around looking for someone who could help him understand the way to “Pray without ceasing”. He finally met an old monk who invited him to his cell and loaned him an ancient book of teachings from the Orthodox Fathers. The book gave instructions in the saying of the Jesus Prayer. The monk became a tutor in this prayer method and the Russian man spent the summer working in a local garden and learning the Jesus Prayer by heart. He repeated it up to 12,000 times a day, until the prayer filled his heart and dreams.

In our Sculpting project for the next two weeks we will work on training our heart to “Pray unceasingly.” Rather than 12,000 times a day I suggest a more modest goal of 5-10 minutes a day.

Two ways to sculpt with the Jesus Prayer:
1. In time set aside from activity:
Sit or walk for 5-10 minutes repeating the prayer silently or out loud. Using your breath is very helpful. Inhale: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” exhale: “have mercy on me a sinner.”
2. In the midst of activity:
A. Select an activity you do each day that does not require much attention. Examples: getting dressed, washing dishes, bathing, walking to a location.
B. Place a reminder note or your check off sheet in a location to remind you to use this time for the Jesus Prayer.
C. Say the Jesus prayer as you do this activity.

Variation: This prayer is very similar to the one used by Blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-7. If it does not feel like the right prayer for you then select another prayer from Scripture or create your own.
Key Verse: Pray without ceasing 1 Thess. 5:17


The Project: 5-10 minutes a day repeat the Jesus prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Communicate: Comment on this blog, talk to others, or post on face book. We need each other to successfully sculpt ourselves.

Three Things Challenge:
Over a year ago I began my list of 1000 things I love: Gifts from God. Would you like to join me in this challenge and create your own 1000 things list? Or you may wish to design your own challenge of 200 or 500 or 5000 things you love list. If you want to join in the challenge let me know so we can cheer each other on.