“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
One of our team assignments for Fanning the Flame this month is to write a personal prayer vision. This means first describing what my prayer life is realistically like today and then forming a goal to work toward by the end of the year. I admit that I am struggling, mainly because, for me, prayer isn’t a time I carve out. I’ve tried having a quiet time, using a devotional, making prayer lists or using prayer journals. It can’t seem to sustain these kinds of disciplines. My mind is too unruly. I don’t like to pray out loud with others. I find myself thinking about the person praying and what I am going to say when my “turn” comes. Words distract me from listening to God, which is what I really want to do when I pray.
Years ago I found this Frank Laubach quote (he was a Congregational missionary) that nails prayer for me:
“I really do believe that all thought can be conversations with thee.”
In the midst of my often chaotic and jumbled up brain, God is there. The Bible tells us to “put on the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 I don’t claim to have achieved this, but I do believe He’s part of my thought processes; He sorts things out, He speaks to me, He guides me. Sometimes a person comes to my mind and I just hold them up to God. Sometimes an idea pops into my brain — something I wouldn’t have imagined on my own. Sometimes I wake up with an answer to a problem, which tells me God has been with me even during my sleep, as my mind worked unconsciously. I don’t need words to pray, I just need to pay attention and listen. This is prayer for me.
Now there are some other things that “feed” my prayer life. I have found our Wednesday evening prayer sessions at church deeply calming and fulfilling. We have a prayer list and pray silently for thirty minutes. It is powerful for me and a good discipline to pray with others this way. I feel the presence of God and the comfort of Christian unity.
Music is prayer for me, and most especially the familiar words and music of the liturgy. Here’s what Christian author Kathleen Norris says about that:
“The liturgy of the word is prayer. You pray the scriptures with, and for, the people assembled and the words go out to them, touching them in ways only God can imagine.”
And of course, we Lutherans know how Luther loved music and St. Augustine of Hippo said:
“He who sings well, prays twice.”
God brings the words of hymns and spiritual songs into my mind all the time.
Study is prayer. God speaks to me through the words of Scripture. Often something jumps out in a passage I’ve read over and over yet never noticed. Sometimes the words of a sermon touch my heart, and I know they are a message just for me. Sometimes God places a book in my hand or a verse in my mind at just the right time.
My life is my prayer. When I allow someone to interrupt my schedule because they need help or someone to listen, that’s prayer. When I learn about my gifts and seek to use them in God’s service, that’s my prayer. When I try to be “unoffendable” and put the needs of another person first, I am praying.
I don’t know how to separate my prayer life from my life. Does anyone else feel this way?
This has gotten rather long, so I’ll continue later with my thoughts on how I could grow spiritually through prayer. Right now I’d like to hear from others — what is prayer like for you? What helps you to pray? When and why do you pray?
It may sound as if I’ve strayed off our monthly topic (leaders) but the again, isn’t God our ultimate leader? And isn’t prayer the way we hear from Him?