This morning’s post is the first in the series Lord Teach Us To Pray. It is written by Roy Goble the owner of the family real estate investment firm Goble Properties. He is also the President of PathLight International, which serves at-risk youth by providing educational opportunities that integrate faith and learning. Roy is a Trustee of Westmont College, Chair of the Board for The SOLD Project, and is founder of several non-profit organizations. He and his wife D’Aun live in Pleasanton, California. You can read more about Roy at www.junkyardwisdom.com where this post first appeared and follow him on twitter at @roygoble.
Many years ago, when I was far younger than today, I was interviewing a person for an important leadership position at a ministry. He was about my age and I asked him to describe his prayer life. He answered, “My life is a prayer.”
That’s all he said. I sat there waiting for him to elaborate. He didn’t.
Curious, I asked the typical follow-up questions. How do you do that? What does it look like? Are there exercises to follow? How can you attain such intimacy with God at such a young age? I wanted an answer that helped me understand how it was even possible. But he basically shrugged and said, “It just is. I can’t really explain it.”
Frankly, the answer made me nervous about this candidate. A conversation with wiser friends calmed me as they explained how different faith traditions view prayer in different ways. Eventually we hired him and he worked for many years with the organization.
But I still think about his response. Or more accurately, I think about living a life in such a way that it is pure prayer. How is it that every thought, action, and breath reflects such a spiritual richness?
A simple poem by Fr Gilbert Shaw sets up the question:
is the turning of our whole mind,
our whole being,
I want that, of course. It sounds wonderful. But how do you get it? The idea of a life that is prayer sounds great but seems impossible. A part of the mosaic within my brain understands that there is no definitive methodology, but my linear side is completely frustrated by that.
This is very Western of me, I’m told. And I agree that it is. But that doesn’t answer my question. Besides, the Western faith tradition has a long history of mystics and poets who found great joy in struggling with the incomprehensible idea of living a life of prayer. Brother Lawrence and his pots and pans comes to mind. Learning from those who walked down this path before me has been helpful … to a point.
Shaw also writes:
The purpose of living is not to learn to make prayer,
but to become prayer; to live in and for God
according to the divine call, wholly surrendered to
the Spirit’s activity in the soul for the glory of God.
That’s somewhat more helpful because it equates the idea with something we become. It’s an action. But what action? I keep coming back to the desire for something tangible. It all seems like hard mental work to figure this stuff out, and I would rather just not think about it.
But then that’s the point where I stop and smile. I have learned that we need to be thinking about it. God likes it when we wrestle with such things.
Over time I have come to understand that this struggle to understand is exactly what God wants. My life is prayer only when it is a life of longing for God. The mental sweat that comes from striving to grow spiritually is part of connecting with God’s heart. And God considers it pure joy to meet us in that place.
Or said another way, what we find to be work may well be what God finds to be praise.