How to Pray in a Noisy, Crowded City

As I’ve talked to many folks in the city, one of the biggest challenges in nurturing a contemplative, godward spirit is the constant noise and distraction found in the city.

In other words, people constantly remark how much easier it is to focus in the Poconos Mountains as opposed to Main Street Flushing.

I’ll never forget having a small group practice lectio divina, a guided meditation on a text in Scripture that involves silence and centering, and in the midst of silent reflection, horns and sirens were blaring all around us.

We were meditating on “He leads us beside quiet waters.”


Anyhow, I came across this resource a year or so ago, and I’ve been experimenting with different ways to center in the midst of our oft-frantic city.

The urban contemplative guide goes over different exercises to use on the subway, in marketplaces, at historical sites, etc.  I highly recommend you try these exercises!

Here’s what I especially found helpful:

1)  Imagine Jesus Traveling along with you – Yes, wherever you go, to imagine Jesus traveling along with you, seeing what you’re seeing, inviting you to notice what he wants you to notice.

2)  Pray for People – In crowded cities, it’s so easy to see most people as a nuisance, rather than a gift.  This doesn’t mean we have to hop on over to Times Square every day, but we all come across hundreds of people every day just living in the city (quite frankly, NYC is much different in this regard than Los Angeles).

What if we began to notice people – real people (in a non-stalker way) – and we began to pray for them.

In other words, whenever I see people, this can be an opportunity for me to pray.

Anyhow, please check out the guide when you have a chance… and experiment with ways to leverage all the gifts of the city (sights, sounds, and people) to nurture your walk with God.

I love NYC.


2 responses to “How to Pray in a Noisy, Crowded City

  1. I don’t live in the city yet, but I definitely agree with you on points 1 and 2. One thing I try to do is pray for people whenever I see an ambulance or hear sirens. It’s a healthy reminder to think beyond myself and to extend the grace of God to the people around me, even if I am only there for a moment.

  2. VERY cool dude. I struggled with the same when I was living in NY… there also seems to be a sense where the drivenness to achieve somehow also translates into a hyper-achieving devotionalism.. wish somebody taught me Lectio when I was there.

    I’ve also found the Poconos / Main St. Flushing dichotomy problematic, but somehow, in reality, necessary.

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