Many of you know that I am working on a new book on prayer: Return to Your Senses – Reimagining How We Pray, that hopefully will be available in September. When I worked in Africa I was impressed with how Africans wove their prayers through every part of life. Everything had a spiritual dimension to it. Every experience was a way to encounter and interact with God. It was this same spirituality weaving through all of life that first drew me to Celtic Christianity.
When I returned to Western culture I went hunting for this same kind of spirituality. Everyone I spoke to referred me to Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God. How sad I thought that the only book anyone can think of that talks about how to interact with God in the ordinary mundane acts of life is 400 years old. Since then I have come across a number of books that address prayer and spirituality in this way.
Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World was a particularly delightful find. In the introduction to her book she talks about people who call themselves spiritual but not religious.
They know there is more to life than what meets the eye. They have drawn close to this “More” in nature, in love, in art, in grief. They would be happy for someone to teach them how to spend more time in the presence of this deeper reality, but when they visit the places where such knowledge is supposed to be found, they often find the rituals hollow and the language antique. (xvi)
My post last week What Is Prayer elicited a lot of helpful interaction in this type of prayer which so many of us hunger for but don’t know how to grasp. It is very difficult for us to take our rituals and formulae and turn them into relationships of love.
I think that we often misunderstand what contemplative prayer is all about too which doesn’t help us to move closer to the loving heart of God. Contemplative prayer is not necessarily about sitting in a quiet place but about finding a quiet presence in the midst of life’s distractions. Cultivating that is often challenging but always very rewarding. Consider Brother Lawrence . He entered into the presence of God while washing the dishes – something that I am sure was very noisy with lots of distractions.
So my question this morning is – How Do We Learn to Pray? How do we learn to move beyond rituals to relationship? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas and if you have any books to recommend on the subject would love to know about them.