Returning to Fervent Effectual Prayer: Selah!

wpid-wp-1431658322686.jpeg There are many things that cause us to pause in life. Several of which are negative and then a few that are positive. What is fascinating about our world today is that when it comes to pauses, we control far more of the process involved to pause than many may realize. Basically anything with and On/Off button gives us the power to pause. However, technology and society have it just the opposite. What is the antithesis of pausing? Before I answer that question let’s look at what is meant by “Pause”. The origins of the word go all the way back to the Greek when the word we use today meant to “Halt” or “Stop”. However, there is a form of the word in English that is idiomatic and means to “give pause” or a better understanding would be to reflect or thinking before doing and speaking. It is the later emphasis that my writing is about today.

The Bible uses the concept in various books of the Bible from Genesis, Psalms, and both Major and Minor prophets. However, the Bible identifies the same message with the word “Selah!” It is intended to be both a musical pause and a reflective pause with a tinge of wonder. Too often, when we hear the word “pause”, we hear stop or halt. I think God wants us to hear “Selah!” today. But how do we get there from here? The Bible encourages us to pray and this is perhaps the most effective method for practicing pause. Until recently, I thought this was all that was needed was a pastor to tell his listeners, “Let’s pray” and people would be moved to prayer. Now, I am not so sure. We live in a time where people do not know how to pray or pause.

wpid-wp-1431658318033.jpeg We affiliate prayer with bowing our head but then what? Where does our mind go? Are we really praying and if so what are we saying and to whom?

Recently I did some research, work and implementation of something called “Mindfulness”. For anyone who has been through military mental health, a good bit of Mindfulness is used in those sessions. It involves a lot of breathing, being in the moment, thinking of one thing in particular and trying not to think of other things going on in the room or in life. Things like Aroma Therapy, Light and Sound Therapy are closely related to Mindfulness but so are things like Acupuncture and Hypnosis. The multi-disciplined, multi-religion uses of these practices has come into the mental health field with great acceptance. All are looking for the same thing, “How do we get our Soldiers to pause (Selah!)”.

As a Christian, I still believe that the best answer is prayer but being that we have moved away from what the Bible calls “The fervent effectual prayers of a righteous man”, it is time for a refresher.

I will implement here a concept that is very effective in counseling. It is called, “if what you are doing is not working, do something different”. (Solution Focused Therapy) Here are a few tips to returning to fervent effectual prayer:

  1. Too tired to pray or you get sleepy when you pray? Pray while you are in the shower, in your car driving, with someone or about a topic you are passionate about. As you develop, your prayer life will grow to more accommodating times like early in the morning or late at night. Eventually, your amount of listening will increase alongside of your depth of prayer.
  2. Don’t know what to pray? Pray Scripture, pray for family members by name, pray for protection during long trips and pray God’s promises. Pick a world event and pray about it very specifically or pray about a big decision you have coming up making a list of all the things that make the decision important and pray the list to God. Talk with God in conversational style but don’t be afraid to cry out to God in both distress and frustration. You won’t hurt His feelings.
  3. Types of prayers? Individual Prayer (me praying for myself and my immediate Family; it is considered the most common form of prayer as practiced by Americans but also the most expedient), Intercessory Prayer (The most powerful form of prayer known to mankind because it is selfless and there is nothing to be gained by you for praying in this manner), Collective Prayer (Usually practiced in churches and at Bible Studies. These can also be larger like the National Day of Prayer), Prayer walking (or exercising, basically you pray for those who you walk by or are exercising near, and it is mostly done without knowing anything about those you are praying for) and Prayer with Fasting (usually done to cast out unwanted influences, to change circumstances quickly within a few days, or when someone is ill or dying).
  4. Why Pray? Because God calls us to: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
  5. What should it look like? What does humbling yourself look like? Then that is what it should look like! The posture of prayer is a fun study and it ranges from bowing one’s head in reverence to laying on the ground as dead in total surrender or helplessness.

There are many more but I would like to pull one of these out of the list and demonstrate how to use it. So, in #2 the first example is to Pray Scripture. This is a lost art. Many of these types of prayers are made by pastors on Saturday night about 2300 when they can’t think of what to preach. Sad really! A better use is to take a passage of scripture and try to memorize it. Once you do then you emphasize a different word each time you say it and pause to think about how it changes the understanding of the verse. For example: Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”. Taking this short verse, emphasize the word “THE”, then read the rest of the verse. Next, read the verse again or recite and emphasize the word “LORD”. Continue until the full verse is read in this way. Once complete, pray the verse back to God and emphasize the parts that apply to you or whomever you are praying for or with. Even in the actual prayer, be sure to practice pause. If you reflected on a word so will others. The Holy Spirit is in the Pause, for it is here that we listen most intently.

Interestingly enough, Psalm 23:2 says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.” If that does not define PAUSE as shown above, I do not know what does.

Question-About-Suffering1 As you look for the places where you pause in life, dedicate those times to God. The natural pauses are oftentimes the best ones. The ones we make because we control the button are just as meaningful and powerful. Finally, in counseling there is another concept I would like to leave you with. It is called “Controlling what you can control”. If you control the On/Off button then you control the pause. If your life is too busy but you control the button what does that mean? As the world continues to look for ways pause, rest in the fact that prayer is still the most effective method of pause. You control the 5 W’s and H of prayer, you hold the button. Now Pause and think about it, SELAH!

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ – Psalm 46:10

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.