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Statio: Pausing to Be Prayerful

Statio Pausing to Be Prayerful

Your life is made up of moments to be enjoyed — moments of relating with people, working, doing ordinary activities, playing, and praying. 

Yet it’s easy to miss the blessings in the moments of our daily lives. Often we’re trying to do too much, rushing through the day, worried, distracted, and absorbing conflict.

In fact, a research study found that 77% of us are regularly over-stressed and suffering physically as a result (stress.org). Another study found that 31% of us experience an anxiety disorder at some point in our lives (NIMH study).

Practicing the spiritual discipline of statio enables you to enjoy God’s loving presence during your daily activities. 

In this article, you will learn about statio, its history and benefits, the four mindfulness techniques of statio, and the best practices of statio. 

What is Statio?

Statio is a Latin word for “station,” “position,” or “watch.” It is often described as a holy pause. A simple definition of statio is pausing to be prayerful.

In contemporary language, statio is mindfulness prayer. It’s an unhurried moment to appreciate God’s presence through silent prayer or meditation on Scripture.

Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, explained, “Statio is a monastic custom… of stopping one thing before we begin another. It is the time between the times” (Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, 1990, p. 176). 

Concretely, for nuns and monks, statio is arriving early to worship services. 

The History of Statio

Early Christian disciples developed statio as a practice of pausing to be prayerful during a spiritual pilgrimage, celebration, or meditation.

In the 4th Century, Jerome reported that people from around the world were going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem to walk in Jesus’ steps from his condemnation to the cross. 

These pilgrims developed 14 Stations of the Cross from Scripture and church tradition to recall Jesus’ passion. At each prayer station, the pilgrims paused to remember Jesus’ journey and pray. 

After this pilgrimage, the powerful practice of statio in the Stations of the Cross was brought back to churches and monasteries. 

Statio was also applied to other situations, like arriving early to services in a church or chapel to prepare their hearts in devotion. 

Statio can actually be traced all the way back to the Psalms, the Bible’s prayerbook. 

The prayer masters who arranged and edited the Psalms just prior to the time of Jesus inserted the word selah 71 times. 

These selahs are found between verses or even in the middle of sentences. This may have been a time to change instruments, but for the gathered community, selah was an invitation to pause for quiet reflection

The Benefits of Statio

Joan Chittister applies the monastic discipline of statio’s holy pause is an invitation for us to be consciously present to God in the everyday activities of life: 

The practice of statio is meant to center us and make us conscious of what we’re about to do and make us present to the God who is present to us. Statio is the desire to do consciously what I might otherwise do mechanically. Statio is the virtue of presence. (Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, 1990, p. 177)

Why You Need Statio

Pausing to be emotionally present to the God who loves and cares for you facilitates your experience of God’s peace and joy. It’s soul medicine for when you are:

  • Over-stressed
  • Too busy
  • Overloaded with information 
  • Missing human touch
  • Worried or frustrated
  • Distracted by many things
  • Pulled into pleasing people
  • Not being your true self
  • Disconnected from God’s love
  • In a hurry

Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry

If you’re in a hurry or too busy, you lose margin. Work, events, errands, and expectations from people get stacked on top of each other until you’re running breathlessly from one thing to the next.

As Dallas Willard famously taught, “You have to ruthlessly eliminate hurry” to grow spiritually and grow in your experience of God’s joy. 

Statio prayer slows you down. It puts spaces for holy pauses in your schedule. It helps you learn to be emotionally present to the God who is always available to love you and guide you. 

By using the holy pause of statio to breathe, meditate, or pray, you can unclutter the nooks and crannies of your daily life. Statio fills this space with an appreciation of God’s presence and a readiness to join with what the Spirit of Jesus is doing. 

How to Practice Statio

How to Practice Statio

You can use statio prayer to practice spiritual disciplines while still engaging in everyday activities of life. Each day has many transitions and mundane activities. 

Finding Space for Statio and Silent Prayer

The nooks and crannies of your daily life are an opportunity to pause for silent prayer:

  • Arriving a little early to meetings and events
  • Walking outside slowly to appreciate the beauty of nature
  • Saying thank you when someone blesses you
  • Turning car travel time into a sanctuary for God
  • Immediately praying whenever you hear someone has a need (Matt. 11:25)
  • Praying while you’re waiting in line
  • Meditating on a Bible verse while you brush your teeth
  • Singing a praise song to God in the shower

4 Mindfulness Techniques for Statio

The S.T.O.P acronym identifies four mindfulness techniques to help you practice statio for prayerfulness during your daily activities:

  1. S: Stop what you are doing for a minute or more.
  2. T: Take a deep breath to be emotionally present in the moment.
  3. O: Observe your thoughts and feelings.
  4. P: Pray about what you need or what you’re doing.

7 Best Practices of Statio

The spiritual discipline of statio works best when it’s combined with other spiritual disciplines. Clearing away soul clutter makes space for Jesus. We can then invite him in by practicing one of these disciplines. 

1. Silent Prayer

Our world today is noisy and cluttered with information. Intentional silence to foster prayer and relational engagement is rare. Silent prayer is important for soul care and church community. Being quiet and tuning out environmental noise facilitates the holy pause of statio.

2. Selah Prayer

Often we rush to finish the passage or chapter of the Bible we’re reading. We check it off our to-do list but miss an opportunity for relational engagement with God. Instead, like the Psalmists, we can pause for a selah during Bible reading to reflect on or pray a portion of Scripture. That’s practicing statio.

3. Morning Prayer

Your first words (or thoughts) of the morning can set the trajectory for your day. Rather than reaching for your phone or hurrying to get ready, the opportunity of statio is to pause and pray. It can be as simple as praying:

  • Jesus, I love you!
  • Thank you, Lord, for this day.
  • Dear God, I dedicate this day to serve you.
  • “Our Father in heaven…” (Matt. 6:9-13).

4. Enjoying Nature

Much of our work and social life today requires looking into a digital screen. More than ever, we need to be intentional to get outside to look up into the sky, listen to the birds, appreciate a flower or green plant in summer or the sparkle of snow in winter, and recognize that God makes all things beautiful in his time (Eccl. 3:11). Time in nature is a great opportunity to take a statio break from technology and work. 

5. Breath Prayer

Breath Prayers from the Bible are a favorite spiritual discipline of the people who participate in the ministry of Soul Shepherding. It’s a form of centering prayer in which you repeat a phrase (or paraphrase) from Scripture to meditate and appreciate God’s presence or wisdom. For instance, to practice statio prayer in a transition during your day, you can repeat “Peace! Be still.” as a breath prayer (Mark 4:39).

Breath Prayer Guides are a booklet of 40 one-page breath prayer Scripture meditations that help you practice statio prayer and enjoy God’s presence. 

6. Visual Devotions

Imagining yourself in a Bible story (often called Ignatian meditation) is an encouraging way to pray and can be incorporated into the practice of statio, especially during Bible reading. Rather than just seeking to gain knowledge about Scripture, using your imagination helps you to focus and be emotionally present. 

Journey, Rhythms, Rescue, Playful, and Surprising Joy (for Advent) are five sets of visual devotion cards you can purchase for personal devotions and small groups. They include both a photograph or art for reflection as well as prompts to receive and respond to Jesus in his Word.

7. Stations of the Cross

At each of the 14 Stations of the Cross, it’s beneficial to pause for statio. Physical prayer walks use plaques at each prayer station depicting the Gospel scenes. Devotional books like Unforsaken use artwork for this purpose. 

Learn More About Statio

Learn More About Statio

The spiritual discipline of statio is featured in my book, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke. I share my own experience of being yoked with Jesus along with many related Scripture meditations and soul care practices that will diminish your stress and worry. Learn the easy rhythms of rest and work with Jesus, living in the grace and peace of the Kingdom of the Heavens! 

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