One of the things I learned from being in prayer retreats is the importance of a rested body to prayer. I would be encouraged by the spiritual director to settle in and relax, take walks and sleep as much as I needed. He knew from experience that many Singaporeans who came for retreats were usually tense, wound up, and drained. To start praying with such a state of mind and body would be counter-productive. A day or two would be needed to unwind, sleep well, and eat well and be in a better state to be alert and to pray.
Like it or not we are not mere spirit beings. We have a body as well, and it affects our emotions, mental concentration and spiritual alertness. I learned that I prayed better when I was better rested. I attended better to the Scriptures, meditation, and prayer.
When this learning is applied to my regular prayer and meditation it meant that I usually gave some time for slowing down, quieting myself, and to let myself dial down physically by taking slow and deep breaths for several minutes, typically ten minutes, sometimes for double that. I would consciously slow down my breathing and would seek to be more conscious of God’s presence with me before I start my reading or meditation of scriptures or other spiritual exercise.
When I first started out on this practice I would set my timer to ten minutes of silence and deep breathing. I did this because my temptation would be to quickly get productive and efficient and finish my “quiet time” or “lectio divina”. The timer held me back from diving straight in before I was in a better place to be receptive to God.
Moses was 40 days in the mountain before God revealed Himself and gave him the ten commandments. Couldn’t God do it more quickly? Wouldn’t three days be sufficient? I do not have a definitive answer. Perhaps God was ready to give Moses the ten commandments but Moses was not ready to receive the revelation. Just a thought.
Try this out. It is an aid to prayer. Unwind. Relax. Breathe slowly and deeply for ten minutes or more if needed. Before you read, meditate, reflect or pray.