To fortify means to strengthen. To fortify a city is to strengthen defensive works as protection against attack. To fortify wine is to mix brandy or other spirits with wine to stop the process of fermentation, which also results in a stronger drink (certainly a process not lost on the Church).
So to fortify prayer and meditation essentially means to strengthen it and protect it against the pace of life, the constancy of noise, the apathy and our own skepticism that it adds any value to our lives.
These practices then often have the effect of fortifying us; enabling us to stand under pressure, suffering, oppression, fear, loss and pain. In the first century Apostle Paul suggested to “…not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds…”
It’s the heart and mind that is so susceptible to the noise, pain and challenges of life; one can so easily become calloused and the other distorted. This is why it’s so important to guard, or fortify, them. Meditation and prayer often has the effect of softening the heart and bringing clarity to a distorted mind.
Whether it’s the physiological benefits of slowing the body down though breathing deeply and intentionally, the mental benefits of actually pausing to reflect and order our thoughts, the sense of community the practice awakens given the vast numbers of people doing it, or that God actually intervenes to heal, restore and transform, the fact that the majority of the world practices prayer and meditation reveals its benefits.
Prayer and meditation is also about the struggles, pain and oppression of others. As theologian Karl Barth wrote, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” Several of the Sister’s prayers and meditations at the Jambaroo Abbey were about God’s care for the sick, against unjust conditions in society that constrained human flourishing, and for governments that would act in the interests of all people.
These are subversive prayers that challenge the status quo and call on God and humanity to act for peace within ourselves, while providing the inspiration to boldly make peace for others.
These steps may help with your prayers and meditation:
1) Decide to be intentional and regular in prayer and meditation
2) Make a list of things to pray for or meditate on
3) Start small, maybe 10 minutes, and build from there
4) Read about the prayer and meditation lives of others to find inspiration
5) Join others in prayer and meditation, and
6) Act on the positive thoughts that come out of your prayer and meditation