Prayer is a broad spectrum of practices that keep us in touch with God. From memorized prayers like the Lord’s Prayer to any dialogue with God to silence in His presence, the ways of prayer are varied and rich. Prayer is asking God for help and healing for ourselves and others. It is lifting up our sins to God and asking for forgiveness. It is asking God what He has in store for us this day. It is listening to God for what He is saying to us in this Bible passage today. It is hearing from the Holy Spirit what God wants us to do now, with this person. Prayer is the whole gamut of the relationship we have with God.
It includes acknowledging His grace and presence. It is gratitude for all that the Lord does for us. Prayer is the way of walking in God’s presence every day and in every way.
The one kind of prayer that doesn’t come easily to us is the prayer of silence, of contemplation. Years ago, when I first tried to meditate, after a few minutes of listening to the mumblings of my mind, I would run from the chair as fast as I could. A few months later, acknowledging that this was an important practice for me to learn, I began to be able to sit with my thoughts quietly and without running away. How did I do that? I learned how to step back from being engaged with them and letting them upset me or make me anxious–how to become an observer of my thoughts.
What thoughts arose in me? All the shoulds! But when I began to step back from their influence on me, I could see the source of each thought and acknowledge the person(s) who taught me how to think like that. From my parents, the major lesson was to be on time, if not early for everything. From my parents and my Aunt Grace, don’t spend any money that you don’t have to. From my Mom, have poise in every situation. And so on. There were also all the society’s rules of behavior and, mainly, conforming to society’s goals for me. As an observer I could look on all these early influences on my life with distance and interest, rather than nervousness and upset.
As an observer of these thoughts, I was able to sit in peace, to not let them distract me. For many years I sat in meditation or Centering Prayer for an hour each day. The more I was silent, the more I could hear God’s “still, small voice” [1 Kings 19:12] throughout my days. And then I was able to surrender to whatever He was telling me. My spiritual practices evolve over time, so right now I am no longer meditating daily. I keep a daily gratitude journal at night and read the passages from ”Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young and “Face-to-Face with a Holy God” by Kay Arthur and Pete De Lacy on Isaiah in the mornings. In addition, I have followed two journaling guides that I produced, one on the Two Great Commandments and the other on the Beatitudes. These practices keep my life centered on God and aware of His presence throughout the day.
Prayer is an expression of the all-encompassing nature of our lives lived in the presence of God. It is rich and varied depending on the person and what God is asking of you right now. Mostly, it expresses the ever-deepening nature of our relationship to God in our individual lives.