I strongly believe that prayer changes things and that God’s activity in our world is somehow curtailed when we do not pray. What I am less confident of is how to pray and as I talk to sincere followers of Christ around the world I realize that many of us do not always know how to take advantage of the many tools that are available for prayer. And I don’t just mean books and websites here. I mean good practical tools that help us to pray regularly and with conviction. This is the first of several posts I intend to write this week on tools for prayer. Some of these may be familiar to you, others may be unknown.
Part of the problem is that we don’t really know why we need to pray or what kinds of prayers we should use. And most of us don’t really know how to pray either. Prayer comes in many forms – there are those like prayers of gratitude and adoration that move us upward closer to God. There are others like the prayer of examen, prayers of confession and prayers of lament that draw us inward to search out the hidden and broken places of our lives. Lastly there are those that draw us outward into the global community encouraging us to action like prayers of intercession and healing. Upward, inward and outward – all these types of prayers are necessary for a well balanced prayer life.
It is reassuring to know prayer has never been easy nor has it ever come naturally for Jesus’ followers. Although the disciples must have grown up with the Jewish rituals of shema twice a day and prayer three times a day—morning, afternoon, and sundown—they still needed to learn to pray. Although they had watched Jesus pray in all kinds of situations, seen him connect his prayer life to his public ministry, and watched him use prayer and his relationship to God to mold all he did, they still didn’t understand and begged him: “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Even after Jesus taught them about prayer, they still could not watch with him one hour and fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Why do we find it so hard to carve out time for the practices that should be the focal point of life? Why, like the disciples of old, do we still need to come to Jesus with the cry, “Teach us to pray”? Part of it I think is that most of us have very limited toolkits and hopefully of the next week or so we can all learn from each other how to enlarge our toolkits.
If you would like to submit a post for this series, please let me know as I am sure that my toolkit still needs to enlarged and strengthened too.