What is prayer? Welcome to the Year of Prayer. Our Bishop has named 2018 the Year of Prayer and each church and even the synod as a whole is exploring the practice of prayer. Since prayer is such a foundation to a healthy spirituality, this theme is fitting for the blog this coming year too. Each month on the Tending the Holy Thursdays there will be a focus on an aspect of prayer and of course a monthly free download.
On my Thursday posts, I pick one theme (or person of faith) to explore deeper. I call this series Tending the Holy Thursdays. This month exploring what prayer is will be the topic.
I am so excited too about this month’s free download “50 Books about Prayer,” You can get this resource free by clicking on the button at the end of this post. This printable shares 50 books on prayer – there are so many books on prayer, definitely more than 50, but this list is a good starting point for learning more about this practice.
And remember we can read, study, listen to podcasts all about prayer, but the best teacher about prayer is praying, spending time with God. Simply talking and listening. Tell God you want to deepen your prayer life and he will help you.
What is Prayer
What is prayer anyway? The next few weeks, I am going to share some definitions about prayer for us to ponder. Would love to hear your feedback about some of these quotes:
Don’t seek to develop a prayer life — seek a praying life. A “prayer life” is a segmented time for prayer. You’ll end feeling guilty that you don’t spend more time in prayer. Eventually you’ll probably feel defeated and give up. A “praying life” is a life that is saturated with prayerfulness — you seek to do all that you do with the Lord.
Don’t you love the concept of a praying life? Each living moment becomes prayer. Each activity, even ordinary ones like washing the dishes, reading a book, writing a blog post – all convened in the breath of prayer. I like the phrase Dallas uses “saturated with prayerfulness.”
Prayer is first of all listening to God. It’s openness. God is always speaking; he’s always doing something…The only way to pray is to pray, and the way to pray well is to pray much.
I know prayer is often one sided for me – I talk, God listens, Nouwen reminds me – once again – that I have prayer backwards. Prayer is both and I for one need to be open and willing to be still and listen more.
Prayer is spiritual communication between man and God, a two-way relationship in which man should not only talk to God but also listen to Him. Prayer to God is like a child’s conversation with his father. It is natural for a child to ask his father for the things he needs.
Like Nouwen’s quote, Billy Graham also reminds us not just to talk with God but to listen too. I do like this though as I feel less guilty about talking when put in the context of a child naturally talking to a father/mother and asking for what she needs. There is something comforting about that image. I know many times when I begin my prayer time with God, I smile and tell him, “well, I am going to yap and whine a little at first, but Lord I do want to listen and just be in your presence too.” I am thankful God understands the heart of his children.
Prayer is not only about entering into a relationship with God; it is also about being changed.
I have read more than one quote about prayer that contains the word change and that praying changes us. I wonder if that is one reason why we avoid prayer at times. Change can be uncomfortable, demanding, and leaves us feeling vulnerable. I need to ponder this, in prayer. I do like Rupp’s use of the word relationship, emphasizing bond between God and his people.
I strain toward God; God strains toward me. I ache for God; God aches for me. Prayer is mutual yearning, mutual straining, mutual aching.
I hunger for more of God and find it intriguing and almost tender that God yearns for more of me too. This mutuality sparks the energy of devoted love between two beings, one the Creator and one the loved creation.
Next Thursday I will share some more interesting takes on prayer. The challenge is to choose one of the above to ponder, journal about, take to God and listen for his lesson for us. Sometimes it could be one word that resonated with you or even one phrase or thought that jars your spirit. Sit with those thoughts and lift them up to God for insight.
Me? I am going to hold lightly the idea that prayer changes us – I know how I “should” respond to that concept positively to that idea, but being honest here, I experience anxiety when considering how prayer may expose my weaknesses and limitations. Sounds like some ego going on here and/or lack of trust in God – but instead of burying them with shallow masks of being “the good Christian girl” I will sit with the uncomfortable, the question, the “what do you want me to learn from this, Lord” feeling and be open to how God is shaping my prayer.
Don’t forget to download the free printable “50 Books about Prayer” by clicking the button below.
Which quote, word or phrase stirred you to think more deeply about prayer? Let’s discuss this here in the comments.
P. S. I have created a Healthy Spirituality Facebook Group that is free to join. You can find it here: https://healthyspirituality.org/group. I am sharing daily inspiration there and hope to have ongoing discussions about our faith. Hope to see you there.
P.P. S. My blogger friend, Lisa just write a great post about Prayer – check it out.