This chapter was somewhat familiar to me. I’ve read it three times now and I’ve actually written about it on KofJ before. In fact, I was tempted just to reblog one of my posts about it but I decided not to. I’ll reference it though.
It is pretty astonishing to me that as I sit and write this post I am incessantly distracted. Oh! The irony! I can barely focus on what it is I am supposed to be doing, despite knowing what I want to write about.
Let’s try this again!
This chapter called “Prayers from the Present” starts off with Nicole telling us about her friend who sets a timer on her phone for the liturgical hours. A reminder to stop and pray. I can actually say that I do this! I don’t remember when I started doing this, it very well could have been back in 2018 when I first read this book, but I think it has been longer. My phone beeps at me at 9am, noon and 3pm. And when I read this chapter this week I realized that I don’t really pay too much attention to those beeps any longer. But just like Nicole’s friend, the beep forces my mind out from where it is, and I remember God, even if ever so briefly. That beep often rescues me from places it really doesn’t need to be. I’d like to say I stop to say the trisagion prayers but usually I’m unable or just too lazy. But I have always like that beep pulling me back.
The main part of this chapter is on what Evagrius calls counter-statements. Well, that’s the English translation of what the Greek word means. Counter-statements are a “small but pivotal turn toward God even in the darkest depth of despondency.” Evagrius “instructs praying in short bursts, using short verses or phrases from Scripture to cut off or ‘talk back’ to destructive thoughts. This is where my previous blog post can come into play to explain…I already shared my feelings on counter-statements in “Pivot Prayers” back in December 2018.
Years before this book was even a thought, and certainly before I knew anything at all about Evagrius, I created what I called a pivot poster. A way to help myself pivot my thoughts from negative to positive.
After reading Nicole’s book for the first time in 2018 I changed my pivot poster into what I coined as Pivot Prayers. I like the sound of that better than counter-statements, although they have the exact same purpose, to change destructive, negative thoughts into something positive, or at the very least, pivot our minds back to God.
“Counter-statement engages in what early Christian theologians called “cutting off” damaging thoughts, halting their destruction by offering a direct refutation of them.”
My favorite pivot prayer I have created was from the Psalms.
And my favorite thing to do for Kindler of Joy is to create pivot prayers or counter-statement using God’s creations and hymnography, scripture and quotes and then turn them into cards to send joy through the mail.
Let’s get back to the book, shall we?
Although, counter-statement is not intended to replace a more well-developed rule of prayer, it does provide a path of return to God when we find ourselves at our lowest and most feeble–however often that may be. Its power lies in its intentional brevity.
…we need to hone the basics of facing and countering our destructive thoughts, of turning to God in the heat of our battles. We do this best by starting with short verses or phrases, learning to wield them and take aim with them as we would a sword.Nicole Roccas
Reading this chapter has really confirmed to me that my journey to joy, the purposeful things I do to work at at becoming a kindler of joy, are right on track. She confirms for me that I am on the right track.
Reading those psalms and staking out a verse or phrase within them as your own personal counter-statement could help turn the soul out of the cyclical thoughts of dissipation. they speak not only to the depths of despondent existence, but also to god. When we can’t quite find a God-ward inclination within ourselves, the Psalms train our soul in that direction.
Nicole then goes through and gives us some examples of some of Evagrius’s counter-statements. But whole thing that I took out of this chapter is really a reinforcement of counter-statement in general. Pivot Prayers!
Pivot Prayers are key in bringing my soul out of prison.
Here are some of my own favorite pivot prayers I like to draw strength from, to help me pivot my thoughts…
What did you gain from reading this chapter? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Do you have a favorite “counter-statement” you run to when darkness looms?