A religious life is a life of prayer. Don’t skimp on this or, no matter how white your sepulcher, your insides will always just be full of dry bones.
How to pray:
1. Pray for at least twenty minutes, at least once a day, preferably in the morning.
2. Sit with your back straight, your hands nested in your lap, and your head only slightly bowed.
3. Aim for a 10-to-1 ration of listening to yammering. Given twenty minutes, say what you have to say in the first two minutes, then shut up and listen.
4. The Spirit can speak in all kinds of ways, but take as your baseline the classic Mormon expectation that the Spirit will manifest in your bosom or gut. Physiologically, direct you attention to the area just behind and below your navel. Simply attend, without interruption, to whatever bodily sensations show up there. Direct your attention to that single spot in waiting and expectation. This is what it means to “watch in prayer.”
5. Whenever your attention wanders – which it will do regularly, consistently, and almost immediately – note without judgment whatever you were daydreaming about (“Thinking about lunch-plans.” Or, “Thinking about the inconsiderate thing my husband did.”) and then, without elaboration, bring your attention firmly back to your gut and continue listening for the Spirit. You’ll get better with practice. But, in the meanwhile, you’ll also get a master-class in the content and extent of your own fallen, distracted, and profoundly self-absorbed nature.
6. The most obvious manifestations of Spirit include the following feelings in your bosom. Watch, in particular, for these: (1) warmth, (2) the rise and fall of your diaphragm in connection with the breath of life, (3) a spreading stillness, (4) a recession of your need, like the tide going out, to compulsively impose your will on the course of the day and on the people you’ll meet, (5) a willingness to, in general, pay attention and serve, and (6) the distinct impression that you are, in fact, regardless of circumstance, alive.
7. Learn how to pay attention to the Spirit in this same way throughout the day, as often as your able, whatever you’re doing. This is called “praying always.” The extension of this attentive, prayerful listening into the business of your daily life is the sum and substance of “conversion.”