Each moment is pregnant with new possibilities waiting to be born, alive with new beginnings, God’s secrets not yet heard, God’s dreams not yet fulfilled. These were the thoughts that lodged in my mind as I meditated on Isaiah 48:6-8 this morning. So many good Christian people I talk to are afraid that their prayer life will become stale, their spiritual disciplines empty rituals. Some make this an excuse for their lack of discipline in prayer. And prayer does become stale and meaningless if we don’t know how to stir our imaginations and awaken our creativity to new thoughts, new patterns and new possibilities for prayer.
Tools for prayer are creative opportunities not formulae for success
One of my greatest fears as I share these tools for prayers is that some of my readers will see them as another formula that will make them more successful and more prayerful. Of course, that is possible but what I hope is that we will all see these as tools as ways to stir our imaginations and open our minds to new ways to express the prayers God has placed in our hearts, stimuli that awaken our creativity to the brand new possibilities of ways that God can speak to us, in us and through us.
Most of the tools I have spoken about in the last couple of weeks are ways that I have stimulated my own creativity in times of dry spiritual struggling. They are processes I have used to recreate my own spiritual disciplines so that I can move closer to God and the world in which I live as well as grow my understanding of who God intends me to be. I find them particularly helpful when Tom and I are on retreat – the special times that I take to reimagine my spiritual disciplines for the next few months. I have found lectio divina a particularly fertile ground for imagination and creativity especially when combined with creative acts like drawing, writing and visualization. But they are not the only tools that stir my imagination and awaken my creativity – walking in the garden, turning the compost, listening to music, taking photographs and even as I shared in a previous post – meditating on rocks are all tools that can stir me to new creativity.
Don’t Confuse Discipline with Empty Ritual
One of the surprising things I notice as I read the Bible is that there seems to be more said about when to pray then about how to pray. We are told that Daniel prayed three times a day, Jesus often drew aside to lonely places to pray and of course spent days in the desert in prayer before he inaugurated his ministry but we are told little about what went on during that time. Yes, we make lots of assumptions about what was going on. We know that Jesus was tempted by the devil, but I cannot imagine that this temptation was all that happened during his time in the wilderness.
Perhaps part of what happened while Jesus was alone in prayer was that he learned new ways to pray, new patterns that had the disciples hungering for what they observed… and of course out of that came the most enriching prayer of all time – the Lord’s prayer. But that too we have made into a formula.
What seems to be important for the people of God is that they pray regularly, bringing themselves into that place of intimacy with God where new beginnings can be imagined and new things can be birthed. So my challenge to all of us this morning is:
What stirs your creativity? How can you use the special creative tools God has placed within you to imagine new ways to pray and both draw close to the God of infinite creativity and respond to the needs of our hurting world?