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Transformation Blog: Readings from Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus

 

 

Fasting: Emptied to be Filled (Fasting I)

Brandon Cook

Stuffed Full of Stuff 

By the time I was in high school, my dad’s medical practice had become prosperous. Growing up, he had often left home on the weekends to pick up shifts, to make ends meet. But things changed as he became more successful, and it changed our home life. It meant, for example, that we had big Christmases. When I was seventeen, we had a very big Christmas, with lots of presents under the tree. 

It was the worst Christmas I’ve ever had. 

On Christmas Eve, my siblings were watching that great Christmas classic The Godfather(okay, not exactly up there with Clarence getting his wings), when my parents had a big fight. We could hear it upstairs, and my brother and I looked at each other and took a collective deep breath. Suddenly, my father rushed downstairs, grabbed his jacket, and, without saying a word, slammed the door behind him. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. There were boxes everywhere on Christmas morning, and all full of stuff. But what good is stuff when you aren’t connected? When what really matters is absent, how can you feel any true wealth? I remember thinking that I’d rather us have no Christmas presents but simply be happy being together.

It wasn’t just Christmas, either; throughout the year, boxes would arrive at our house. Our home was inundated with stuff: CDs and clothes and books and gadgets. My sorrow and hopelessness at having things but no real joy grew. 

The strange thing is, I have the heart of a collector. I love beautiful books and wooden boxes. I love looking through antique stores. But as an adult, I find that rather than over-eating or over-drinking or over-sexing (though I have done each), my most consistent temptation is to numb out by acquiring more things. Which is strange, because I don’t consider myself materialistic or greedy. I hate wasting money, and I don’t think I spend it wantonly. But then again, in our prosperous society, greed easily flies beneath the radar. I’ve never had someone stand in my office and say, “Wow, you have a lot of books. Do you have a problem with greed?” Yet I have a penchant for “taking the edge off” by buying some new book or some new thing. I can get lost in it. It relieves the angst of life for a moment, but often at the cost of a closed and frustrated heart, as having more starts to feel like a prison. Things that satisfy us only temporarily are not satisfying at all.

Which is why each year I engage in a consumption fast. It’s an extended time of many months where I don’t buy anything new except what is essential. You know, deodorant and the like (you’re welcome, world). I train myself to see how much I have and how little I really need. I train my soul to be content. I practice giving away my things and my money to those in need. I fast because I know that otherwise, my mind and heart can get filled up with having and possessing.[1] The American ideal of having more starts to rewire my thinking. And I don’t want to get lost in that. Our lives can so easily get filled, crowding out the space where the Holy Spirit would stand, if we would let Him. We need ways to do that—to let Him stand with and within us. For this reason, fasting is a core practice of The Grounded Life, by which we make space for God to live and move and breathe within us, just as He desires to do. 

A Core Practice

Fasting was one of the core practices of the early Church. When leaders in the early Church had to make big decisions, they did so with “prayer and fasting.”[2] Jesus himself fasted for forty days in the wilderness, and he told his disciples that after he was gone from them, they would fast.[3] Fasting is a crucial practice for spiritual life, critical to the development of vibrant hearts.

And what is fasting? It’s a voluntary, temporary reduction in comfort, so that we can redirect our spiritual energy to God. It is detaching from over-dependence on any good thing—even the very gifts of God which we are meant to enjoy (food, drink, entertainment, and so on)—so that we can, for a season, refocus the energy spent delighting toward hungering at a deeper level, even for the very presence of God Himself. 

Fasting is a spiritual practice deeply connected to gratitude. When we fast, we learn to say, “I am perfectly okay without that book, that food, that drink, that television, that social media,” so that our soul gains confidence in its joy being with and before God. Fasting leads us to gratitude because in fasting we discover our freedom.

The spiritual principle undergirding fasting is simple: we can’t be filled unless we are emptied. As Khalil Gibran said, “Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potters oven?”[4] Sometimes this emptying comes from suffering, yes. But in fasting, we preemptively empty ourselves. We don’t wait around for suffering to come to empty us. We empty ourselves so that when suffering comes (as it will, eventually), we already know and, more importantly, trust the resurrection pattern of being filled by God in the midst of emptiness. In this way, we learn to be emptied in any situation with the confidence that God will fill us. Jesus demonstrated the highest order of this trust when he went to his death, trusting that God would yet fill him with life.  

Jesus often speaks of the necessity of being emptied. “You must lose your life” is, of course, a directive to let go.[5] In John 15, Jesus dilates on the matter, revealing that part of his work in the disciples over the previous three years was to prune them. “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.”[6] The word cleaned means pruned, and the pruning he describes is an emptying of ourselves, the stripping of all the ways we try to make life work and be fruitful on our own terms. The only way to live a truly fruitful life, Jesus says, is to be cut back, to be made empty, so that we can be filled with the very life of God. 

We all resist this. We hate suffering and emptying and vulnerability, and we will always resist it. I don’t know anyone who, when pain comes, says, “Yippee!” But God’s Spirit loves us enough to lead us through the place where we are laid bare, even when it stings us, so that we can be filled with life. This, after all, is the resurrection pattern which we must come to trust if we are to enter fully into the Reign of God. When we are emptied in this way, we become fruitful, and the wine of our lives becomes comfort for others.[7]

For this reason, James tells us to give thanks for trials.[8] By giving thanks, we see with spiritual eyes that what is happening in us—the development of our eternal souls—is far weightier than “the sufferings of this present age.”[9] In a similar way, in fasting, we can participate in our pruning, so that we become ripe with resurrection life.

For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'

[1]Which reminds me of Jesus’ words: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

[2]E.g Acts 13:13, 14:23.

[3]Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:20, Luke 5:35. In addition to Jesus in the wilderness, there are many other fasting examples in Scripture, such as Daniel’s fast in Daniel 1:12. Most Scriptural fasts deal with food, but for our purposes here we will focus not only on food, but also on other areas of consumption.

[4]Gibran, Khalil. The Prophet. Alfred A. Knopf. New York, NY. 1923. Page 29.

[5]A paraphrase of Matthew 10:39: “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

[6]John 15:3.

[7]2 Corinthians 1:4.

[8]James 2:1ff. Trials bring the testing of our faith, which causes our endurance to grow, which brings us to wholeness and completion in God.

[9]Romans 8.

A Practical Order for Daily Prayer (Prayer VI)

Brandon Cook

A daily practice of prayer can be instrumental in anchoring us in awareness of adoption and in a life empowered to love others. Until you both understand and regularly experience the love of God and your adoption in Him, life will remain tit-for-tat, on the endless wheel of The Human Paradigm and the cycle of “trying to be good enough.” But life can be so different, and so can prayer. I have found that the following order for daily prayer, when approached from a posture of openness each day, is a wonderful way to connect with the Spirit of Jesus. It is an order of prayer firmly grounded in scriptural instructions for prayer, including the Lord’s Prayer.

Here is the Order:

Confess               Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Remember          You’ve always been faithful. You’ve adopted me in! (How can You be so good?!) 

Remind                There are amazing things you want to do.

Declare                You are good. 

Request               Let your Kingdom come, let what you want be done. 

                            Give me/us what we need.

                            Forgive me, as I completely forgive others.

                             Lead me away from temptation.                    

                            Deliver me from evil and the evil one. 

Confess

 “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Luke 18:13

Confession is our starting point. This confession is not fashioned from The Human Paradigm. We don’t pray it disdaining the fact that we are sinners or vowing to work our way out of being sinners. Rather, we practice with awe and wonder and joy confessing that apart from God, we will always be sinners. It’s not a doingthing we confess, it’s a beingthing: “Father, apart from your love and generous grace, I will never be satisfied.” Starting our prayer here allows us, through a confession about ourselves, to get our eyes off of ourselves! This is because the fact that we have a Savior is implicit in the confession that we are sinners. This movement from “me” to “God,” from “How am I doing?” to “How can You be so good?!” helps us posture our hearts to hear the loving voice of God our Father. 

This is also a time to confess and turn from anything we’ve done that’s violated our conscience, that has taken us out of our awareness of union with God, or that has disconnected us from ourselves and others. 

Remember

“I recall all you have done, O Lord.”
Psalm 77:11

Scripture repeatedly tells us to remember. The entire book of Deuteronomy is about the people of God taking time to remember their past in order to prepare them for their future. By remembering how Jesus has been faithful, we start clearing away the clutter of our minds in order to focus on the story that Jesus tells, the story of new life through adoption. Bring to mind (or listen for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind) reminders of how Jesus has been faithful to you, specifically. Meditate on the ways he has demonstrated to you that he sees and knows you. Is there a particular event in your life through which the Holy Spirit imprinted the infinite love of God on you? Bring this memory to mind. Let it create confidence in you. Own it, give thanks for it. Let it remind you that you have tasted and seen, and that Jesus wants you to know and deeply trust his faithfulness. Remind yourself of the story you are invited to live from.

This is also a good time in the prayer to stop and simply give thanks. Gratitude is one of the best ways to make ourselves aware of God’s presence within and around us. It literally warms up the circuits of our brains.[1] Spend time allowing your heart to stride or stumble into rooms of thanksgiving and gratefulness. 

Remind

“Apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:1

After remembering how Jesus has been faithful, begin to focus on all the ways he will be faithful in the present and future. Remind yourself that God is wanting to do amazing things, in and around you. Remind yourself that you did not dream up longings for blessing or visions of the reign of God becoming reality. Your longings are echoes of desires that begin in God. You are the vine, he is the branch. Remind yourself that, despite the brokenness of the world around us, God is only light and He writes a story of life. 

Declare

“Pray like this: ‘Our Father in Heaven…’”
Matthew 6:9

Having anchored ourselves into the story of new life in God through confession, remembrance, and reminding ourselves of God’s goodness, we are ready to turn our attention fully to the face of God. Jesus tells us to pray, “Father, let Your name be blessed.” In our modern language, it might sound simply like this: “Father, You are good.”

What a simple but profound declaration. Bound up in it is the heart of faith: You are good and I trust You. And because I trust You, I can be vulnerable before You. 

Notice that we enter into the heart of prayer by calling God “Father.” Jesus is teaching us to relate to God not as some distant deity but as an intimate, caring parent. He is revealing the tenderness of God toward us. Jesus teaches us to begin not with requests, but with surrendering into trust, which means saying “yes” back to the “yes” the Father has spoken over us through our adoption in God. Indeed, Henri Nouwen said that prayer is simply “listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’”[2] By calling God “Father,” we are posturing our hearts to commune with the source of all love and hope, our good Father. 

During this time of addressing God as Father, let your heart move into adoration and worship. 

Request: Your Kingdom Come

“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:10

Begin to make requests according to the pattern that Jesus has given us.

“May your Kingdom come, may your will be done” means simply Let what you want be done.The kingdom of God is the place where what God wants is. It is the place of abundance, wholeness, and thriving. Because we trust God as a Father who sees everything (an idea which Jesus continually reiterates in the Sermon on the Mount), we don’t even need to list out all of our specific concerns, although of course we can if that helps us. Peter tells us, for example, to “cast every care and worry on God;” now is a good time to name and release those concerns to God that are only released through naming and labeling.[3] Still, we may simply say, “Father, let your Kingdom come here, and in this area… and here… and here,” without demanding that it look a certain way. In other words, even as we make requests, we are able to practice surrender. It’s not about our having the perfect words to pray or knowing how to pray for each area of need or concern. Perhaps this is a place where you will feel the Spirit calling you into the place beyond words. 

This may also be a good time to pray for others, like your People of Peace, even if it’s simply saying, “Let your life come in _____’s life, and in ______’s.” And to pray, “Let your Reign come to others all around me, Jesus.”

Request: Daily Bread

“Give us today the food we need.”
Matthew 6:11

“Give us today our daily bread” simply means, “Give us what we need.”Not every whim or longing, but give us what we need to thrive as we seek the coming of your Reign. This is a vulnerable request that acknowledges dependence on God and an implicit commitment that we will not build our life on just getting all of our own needs met (something at the heart of “the American Dream”), but that we will orient our lives around seeking the kingdom of God first. The Sermon on the Mount takes up this theme right after the Lord’s Prayer, as Jesus tells us to be like the flowers of the field, “who don’t work or make their clothing.”[4] This is about a posture of dependence and humility, as we request daily manna of provision, physically, spiritually, and in every way that matters. 

You might make this request with open hands, remembering that what we do with our bodies matters, acknowledging that ultimately everything is a gift and giving thanks that God has special and unique provision for us. 

Request: Forgiveness

“And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
Matthew 6:12

“Forgive me my sins just as I forgive those who sin against me” means simply, “Forgive me for all the things that I’ve blindly or willfully screwed up and for hurting people, just as I completely forgive them when they hurt me.” Forgiveness is at the heart of Jesus’ description of a heart that lives in the Reign of God. If we aren’t willing to forgive others, we close the spigot of mercy and grace that God, from His end, has already completely opened and filled. It’s we who refuse the mercy, not the other way around. When we fully extend forgiveness, we are trusting that, since our Father is good, we can release even the greatest pains done to us, because our God will hold them and will hold us with them and, ultimately, will make things right both within us and on our behalf. 

This is a constant pattern of the Lord’s Prayer, with each of its requests: each one requires us to relate to God as a loving Father. At each request, we must still be standing in the beginning of the prayer, calling God our Father. We can forgive even if we don’t feel like it because of who our Father is. As we put words to this trust in prayer, it will help us discover and become aware of how deep God’s grace and mercy is toward us. 

As you pray this part of the prayer, examine your conscience before God. Through the grace of the Spirit, release forgiveness to those who have hurt, betrayed, or offended you, as far as you can, even if you don’t feel like it. With your will, extend this forgiveness, even if your mind and heart don’t yet feel aligned with it.

Request: Out of Temptation

“And don’t let us yield to temptation…”
Matthew 6:13

“Don’t let us yield to temptation” (or “Lead us away from temptation” as it’s sometimes translated)means not only to be led away from the places where we would stumble, but also, in its New Testament context, to be delivered from times of suffering. Since we all know that suffering is not only a part of life but also the catalyst for our transformation, we are asking Jesus that we would pass the times of faith-testing that inevitably come, and that he would surround us with mercy, that we would not needlessly suffer or be afflicted.

As you make this request before God, think of areas where you need special grace and mercy.

Request: Out of Evil

“…but rescue us from the evil one”
Matthew 6:13

“Rescue us from the evil one” (or “from evil and the evil one”) means just that: that we would be delivered from evil and the worker of evil and would be preserved by the mercy of God. That we would, instead, as the writer of Psalm 91 wrote, “live in the shelter of the Most High,” where there is only abundance and life.[5]

As you make this request, think about your own life and the lives that are dear to you. Give thanks that while God’s goal is not simply to make us comfortable at the expense of our spiritual maturity, He also cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, body, soul, mind, and spirit. Give thanks that He longs deeply for our wholeness and deliverance from evil. Rejoice that God desires good things for His children.[6]

Into the Practice

By the time you have come to the end of the prayer, you have reoriented yourself to yourself, embracing the crucial both-andthat you are both a sinner anda child of God. You have reoriented your relationship to God as Father. And you have reoriented your relationship with others, releasing forgiveness, praying for those near to you, and praying that the Reign of God would come through you.

While we can make this prayer into something rote and lifeless, this daily practice will not become mechanistic if we pray in the moment, learning to pray with our head in our heart, because howwe pray it will change each day based on the winds of the Spirit blowing through our lives. This is critical to the heart of prayer: you must create time and space to move slowly, unhurriedly, so that you can pause and respond to the leading of the Spirit. Two unhurried minutes is better than fifteen rushed minutes. 

With this in mind, think of this template as just that: a template with general categories. As you pray it, you “fill out” the category depending on both your concerns for the day and the leading of God’s Spirit. Sometimes, a certain section of the prayer will give you pause. This is often the Spirit saying, “Let’s dwell here for a moment, I’m doing something here.” For example, when you pray, “Father forgive me just as I forgive others,” you may have a sense to pause and camp out. You may have specific people come to mind whom you weren’t thinking of at all when you began praying. When you pray, “Let Your Kingdom come,” you may have specific areas of concern that rise up in you. These names or concerns will change from day to day, which means that you can’t rush through it or pray it on automatic. To be in the prayer, you have to slow down and pray from your heart. Indeed, some days you may not get past the words of confession. Or God may stop you altogether as you address Him as Father. You might spend the rest of your time simply breathing, your hands open before God, receiving comfort from His Spirit. This posture of openness and “what’s going to happen today?” is part of what makes prayer exciting. Each day, you are stepping into something new, an adventure in which God’s Spirit will meet you in new ways. 

Each time you pray, then, listen for the leading of the Spirit. As you pray slowly and consistently, you will train yourself to hear the Holy Spirit as He leads you. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit will use the practice of prayer to remind you of the story that Jesus writes within you, the story of new life through adoption and of a life as an ambassador empowered to love others. After all, a great mystery of prayer is that it is actually God working in us, “giving [us] the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”[7]

This week, take the prayer template outlined above and practice it daily. You may spend anywhere from five minutes to half an hour in prayer. Don’t rush. To help you enter with an unhurried heart, take a few deep breaths before you pray to slow down your body and your mind and to remind yourself that Jesus is as near to you as your breath. 

As you pray, notice how the Spirit will call you into the place beyond words. Through practice, learn to abide there. This can be vulnerable! And it will be beautiful. Indeed, one of the most courageous things we do as human beings and as followers of Jesus is to allow ourselves to feel our desire and to pray in response to it—to enter into the mystery of God—rather than running away from it. As we make time and space to connect and commune with God in prayer, we can be sure that the Reign of God will break out in, around, and through us.


For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'

[1]The same part of your brain that “lights up” when you give thanks is the same part that is activated when you connect deeply in intimate conversation. 

[2]Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Faith and Wisdom. HarperCollins, New York, NY. 2006. Reading for January 13. 

[3]I Peter 5:7.

[4]Matthew 6:28.

[5]Psalm 91:1.

[6]Cf. Matthew 7:11, also in “The Sermon on the Mount.”

[7]Philippians 2:13.

Coming to the Place Beyond Words (Prayer V)

Brandon Cook

Prayer is largely about slowing down into a posture of unhurriedness, removing our soul from the never-ceasing stimulation of our world. Turning off the radio on your commute can be a type of prayer, even if it doesn’t begin with a “Dear Lord” or end with an “Amen.” Indeed, it may just be an inhabiting of silence in which your soul, even while speechless—or sometimes especially while speechless—opens to God’s Spirit. 

Indeed, while we think of prayer as speaking words (and even while I will focus on what we say during prayer below) we should keep in mind that prayer is less about the words we use and more about coming to “the place beyond words.” Contemplative prayer is about learning to pray without words. Some of the richest and most transforming prayer happens in the place where we don’t know what to pray and finally stop trying. In this place of silence—where we sit before God, trusting that He sees and knows us, down to the number of hairs on our heads—we can practice trust of God in a way that trying to put words on everything may actually keep us from. In acknowledging our limitations and our inability to understand or explain everything in the world, including what is happening in our deepest selves, we finally become open to God in a new way. We begin communing with Him at a level that is beyond our understanding. When you engage contemplative prayer, you learn to place your attention not on your negative or scattered thoughts, but on The Jesus Paradigm and on God Himself. You are practicing letting your thoughts go so you can receive the truth of God’s transforming love. In prayer, we finally, in some sense, allow God to hold us, without being able to quantify the experience. Again, this is what we see fully in Jesus and how he is before God his Father.

This is challenging for me, because I love putting words and labels on things. However, this ability to name things, as good as it is, can also become a crutch for me, with its underlying belief that if I can label everything correctly or attach the right words to a prayer, I can somehow crack a hidden code. I have learned that there’s something more important than my understanding life or even knowing exactly what to pray for. Indeed, my deepest communion with God seems to come in the place where I simply say “Father,” and then sit quietly, breathing, noticing my body, becoming aware of God’s Spirit all around me, resting and trusting that He’s with me. Knowing that He’s with me. This takes me much further “into God” than my ability to pray with words. 

Paul alludes to at least one of these places beyond words when he says, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”[1] I often find that I don’t know what God wants me to pray. However, if I will just sit before Him in silence, it’s far more effective than my just filling up the space; ultimately, words that feel right to pray seem to come from somewhere beyond me, even if they are few. For this reason, in Christian tradition, and especially in the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, there is a tradition of praying “with the head in the heart.”[2] When we pray this way, we submit our need to put words to everything and instead, in quiet, allow ourselves to, first, simply feel our longing for God, sitting in His presence. In a world so saturated with endless words, noise, and images, this is an ability learned through practice and training. But our own spirit and certainly the Spirit of God have space to pray as we practice sitting in the place beyond words. 

I have a friend who has had a hard time praying because every time she tries to sit still, her mind races, and she has judged herself “bad at prayer.” It will help all of us to remember, simply, that minds race. That’s what they do! The more we judge ourselves for getting distracted, the less time we will want to spend in prayer. Though over time we cantrain our minds to sit contentedly in silence, we can’t get there by judging our minds for getting distracted. We need, rather, to simply note when our mind is wandering and then focus on bringing ourselves back to prayer. An exercise which helped my friend was writing down all the places her mind raced to when she prayed and, after writing them, refocusing on quiet breathing. Then, at the end of the time of quiet, she read over all the concerns or distractions she’d written down and asked, “God, how are you speaking to me through these things that preoccupy my mind?” She realized that rather than seeing distractions as bad and her mind racing as something that would keep her from prayer, she could actually relate to her distractions as yet another place that God wanted to speak to her. She realized she has been judging herself but that God has not been judging her. This helped her learn to dwell in the place beyond words. 

Resetting our minds, once they have wandered, actually expands our capacity for self-control and greater focus. “Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”[3] There’s good brain-science that demonstrates that the more we train ourselves to pray, the more we actually expand the space between stimulus and response in all of life.[4] Someone can cut us off in traffic (stimulus), and rather than cussing or yelling (response), we have more time and space to mindfully respond, without going to our automatic response.

I have another friend who centers his body and his mind for prayer by lighting candles before he prays. Then he focuses on the light of the flames, remembering that God is light and that “our God is a consuming fire.”[5] This helps him get out of his head and into a sense of awe and wonder before he prays. He focuses on the light of the candles as a way of focusing his body and mind toward prayer. Similarly, some people use a sacred word or phrase, like “You are good” or “You are my Father” to center themselves in prayer or to bring them back to prayer after their minds have gotten distracted.

Whatever works will work. Let us simply remember that prayer is about coming into mystery. As Augustine said, “We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God.”[6] We are guided into prayer by a path which Jesus himself gave us, sending our heads out in front of our hearts. But prayer will also be about entering a mystery, a place where we don’t feel in control, and certainly not a place where we have words for everything. Just as we allow Scripture to “read us,” as Nouwen said, so we should create space for the Spirit to pray through us.[7] Let us keep that in mind as we approach a prayer practice like the one that follows (see Prayer VI). It can guide us to the water, but the Spirit of Jesus teaches us to swim. 

For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'

[1]Romans 8:26.

[2]See, for example, The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology. Igumen Chariton, ed. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, NY. 1997. See the Introduction.

[3]This quote is often attributed to psychologist and concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl, though attribution is difficult to nail down. Stephen Covey is responsible for its wide dissemination and for linking it to Frankl. For more on Frankl’s work, see Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frank. Beacon Press. Boston, MA. 2006. 

[4]The amygdala is the part of our brain that goes into instant response, fight or flight, in the presence of a threatening stimulus. The neocortex, the more thoughtful part of the brain, can make deeper sense of meaning, thoughtfully (rather than impulsively) responding to stimulus. Through contemplative prayer, our ability to access the neocortex (and bypass automatic amygdala response) is strengthened.

[5]Hebrews 12:29.

[6]Qtd in Confessions: The Father of the Church, Vol. 21by Saint Augustine. Vernon J. Bourke, trans. The Catholic University Press of America, Washington, DC. 1953. “Confessions: Book 1,” Footnote 34.

[7]Romans 8:26-27.