Coming Home to the Prayerful Mind

Each of us is gifted with three minds:  

  • The thinking mind (which perceives the world and tries to understand it through our reasoning);
  • The emotional mind (which experiences the world through the two basic human emotions of fear and trust); and
  • The prayerful mind (which is the lifeline to our soul and connects us to the gift of discernment).[1]

 Too often we Ping-Pong back and forth between our thinking mind and our emotional mind.  We take a situation, and try and figure it out in our heads debating what we think is true. Then we quickly shift to our emotions, often becoming fearful when we can’t figure things out, causing us to feel unsafe. 

 These two minds become the focus of our attention and the source of much frustration as we become overwhelmed and absorbed in them.

 An alternative to this type of frenzied living is to live from the prayerful mind.  The prayerful mind is the third part of the triangle that seeks to live in relationship with the thinking and emotional mind.  From the prayerful mind, we view our thoughts and emotions as mere information being provided to us, which we use to sift and sort from the place of our soul, so we can come to a place of deeper understanding and determine what the one necessary thing is that we need to do. 

 The prayerful mind connects us with our Source, the Creator, and provides us with the intuition we need to chart our course in each of life’s events and experiences.

 Like Martha in the biblical story, however, we often operate out of only the thinking and emotional minds.  As a result, we become worried and distracted by having too many balls in there air, all of which we believe have equal priority. We multi-task—soon becoming overwhelmed and afraid we are going to drop one of the balls we are juggling, and fail. 

 Jesus reminds Martha that only one thing is necessary in each moment.  And because he did not tell her which one, he left it to Martha’s prayerful mind to discern what the one thing was that was necessary in that moment.

 We too are invited to shed the cultural myth of multi-tasking.  Research has shown it is unsustainable and inefficient.  It is unnatural even though society rewards us for it.

 Instead, when we live from the stance of the prayerful mind, we step back, view the information from our thinking minds and emotions objectively and are able to use that information in relationship with our prayerful mind to gain clarity about what the one thing necessary is that must be done in any given moment.

 Freedom from multi-tasking allows us to come home to the prayerful mind.  To live from a place of peace and wisdom because we stay connected to our souls. 



[1] A big thank you to Gerry Toshalis who presented this information at a recent conference titled, “Leadership and Discernment.”


  1. Thanks, Brian, for your helpful and provocative post. I always appreciate the sharing of what’s on your mind and heart. And, I often can’t resist the impulse to share some of what you prompt for me!

    At this past Saturday’s breakfast Jerry Toshalis suggested we are inclined to dichotomize our lives into sacred and secular spaces, believing there are different rules of engagement for each of these two “distinct” spaces. This is perhaps most evident within our work places where there is a widely shared value of multi-tasking competence. And, I suspect that the exclusion of “prayerful mind” isn’t limited to the marketplace. Based on false beliefs, beliefs derived from our socialization, we collude with our culture (the values and beliefs of our time and place) in splitting sacred and secular into distinct realms, each having their own operative rules. Thus we operate as if the “prayerful mind” is appropriate for the areas of private devotion and religion, but not the workplace. While we may value the prayerful mind, we have also grown used to leaving it at the door when we enter the rooms of our life defined as “secular.”

    In wondering about this split as operative in my own life, I recognize I am more likely to maintain a prayerful mind as a volunteer than I am within a professional, compensated position, or even while simply hanging out with friends. In these “secular” situations I easily become co-opted by the setting and my beliefs about its expectations. I forget who I truly am while playing to my understanding of what’s expected of me. As a volunteer I consider myself a free agent. I am less likely to “sell” myself to the foreign gods of my culture.

    I then wonder then how my spiritual practices might be adapted for experience within the marketplace? What can remind me of my core, my passion, even in the middle of a chaotic and personally challenging work setting? Certainly, there are different expectations to be noted with one situation over against another. But, I wonder, how can I incorporate experiences significant in the “sacred” spaces of my experience into the “ordinary” spaces of work, family, leisure – even in church leadership roles? This is where the rub is for me!

    Toshalis suggested the value of building forms of “liturgy” into those spaces we have defined as “secular.” These are the situations where we are most likely to forget who we are and to whom we belong. The suggestion intrigues me. What forms of liturgy could be integrated into the spaces where we formerly believed they had no place? Would bringing these “sacred” practices into our “secular” settings, might we build new bridges between the sacred and secular dimensions of our lives, growing the wholeness and integrity we long to experience?

    I’m wondering about others’ experience with the same split between the sacred and secular. Are there lessons from your experience that we all can learn from? What forms of liturgy/prayer have you discovered to be helpful within the workplace? I’m wondering….

    • Larry,

      Great thoughts. I too find the secular world, especially at work as the hardest place to integrate the secular with the sacred. In fact I often wonder if that’s where God is inviting me, even stretching me, to learn how to integrate that two.

      The liturgies that I have begun to try and adopt to move into and return to the place of the prayerful mind I work include these simple if not silly rituals:

      1. I begin my work with a thought for the day as the first to do on my list.
      2. I try and focus on just one task at a time; and when I get pulled away from it I try and remind myself to “bracket” the other task and return to it when the competing demand has been addressed.
      3. I try and ask the question of myself: “what is the one thing that is necessary in this moment?” and then focus on that one thing.
      4. I catch myself multi-tasking more and will often open my hands on my knees as a way to be open and release the urge to accomplish more than one thing in the moment.
      5. when I go to the restroom I use it as a “shedding” ritual as I stand before the mirror and simply let go of the other events of the day so far, and give gratitude for the work that has been accomplished so far that day.
      6. At the end of the day, as I leave the office, I try and remember to do a simple bow of namaste toward my work space, thanking God for the blessing of work and bringing closure to the work day.

      I don’t do these things well by all means. I am finding I have to “unlearn” my habit of multi-tasking and allow the prayerful mind to integrate the secular with the sacred with these simple rituals (when I remember to do them).

      What rituals do you find helpful? What rituals do the other POS guys use to ground themselves in the prayerful mind?

      • Thanks, Brian. Your examples of ritual calling you back to “Presence” are wonderful expressions of your particular dance with the Spirit through a work day. I have never read anything quite like them.

        My own practices have been more private and in a prayer space within my home – at the beginning of the day reading and journaling prayers- and (with much less discipline) when I lay down at night I ask myself where I have been most aware of the Presence during that particular day.

        I like your practice because it goes much further with integration of the prayerful mind right in the middle of all of the stuff that tends to derail us from the openness for which we long.



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