Tuesday

Life and Prayer belong together


British Evangelist and Preacher John Wesley used to arise at 4 a.m. to pray and usually prayed until 7 a.m. He said,"God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it."

As one who enjoys staying up at night, I cannot imagine wanting to be out of bed at 7 a.m., much less getting out of bed at four! After experimenting a bit with praying in the morning, I know that all I do is fall back to sleep. The right time for me to pray is at night.

How is your experience in prayer? Do you find it difficult to pray? I do. Not only do I detest getting up in the morning - the time of day when many Christian writers say you should pray - I am convinced that those writers are all morning people who spring out of bed exclaiming, "Good morning, Lord!" I am more of the "Good Lord, it's morning!" crew. They pray at night;  the world needs people to pray at night as well as in the morning. 

When I was young, I used to pray in bed after turning out the lights. I would face the window, go through my grocery list of needs, and pray for the people I wanted God to reach. Unfortunately, the older I became, the more difficult it was to pray with such clarity. College was the first culprit. All night study sessions robbed me of my sleep and my prayer time. It is difficult to sit up studying at 3 a.m., much less pray, when your roommate is snoozing. 

Then came marriage and children - those little babies are cute but they sure can wear a parent out! After the children got a little older, it was easier to have alone time with the Lord. Bible reading was great, but prayer? This still proved difficult. My mind continually wandered to a thousand places! 

Many times in my adult years, I heard the phrase "praying the scriptures". I did not understand it. I knew that I could find ways to pray in the scripture. Certain verses avail themselves as prayer. For instance, you could pray Ephesians 3: 16 for someone: "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen (whomever) with power through his Spirit in (so and so's) inner being,";Or you could pray for yourself using the fruits of the spirit. "Lord, create in me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control." This is a great tool, but I am sure that the organized morning crowd most often uses it. 

It was not until almost a year ago that I became aware that people prayed the Psalms.  In response, I wrote a blog post about it and when a Catholic friend saw it, he gave me some reading material and directed me to "Christian Prayer," a shortened version of the Liturgy of the Hours that Christians from all over the world pray each day. Since that time, I have used it during my prayer time and it is very helpful. It helps keep me focused. It incorporates prayer and praise. I still have to remember to take time for confession. By using this source, I have been able to memorize some scripture as well. 

During Lent, as you may remember, I read "Forty Ways to a Closer Walk with God", which was an introduction to centering prayer. God used this book to reconstruct my prayer life. Centering prayer is a technique that Christians have used for centuries. This type of prayer brings you before God expecting nothing. You sit in silence, thinking about nothing for about 20 minutes. If your mind wanders, you gently bring it back by thinking of a word that the Holy Spirit has selected for you. During this silence, the Lord is working on your soul and doing what he wants so any results are not obvious at first. For me, I feel a deeper peace and tranquility. I am more able to let things go and I seem to have more confidence in God. 

The best advice I have read on prayer comes from "The GeneseeDiary" by Henri Nouwen. He wrote:

"Yesterday and today the idea occurred to me that instead of excluding I could include all my thoughts, ideas, plans, projects, worries, and concerns and make them into prayer. Instead of directing my attention only to God, I might direct my attention to all my attachments and lead them into the all-embracing arms of God."

This is a good way to pray continually, as Paul says in I Thessalonians 5:17. Nouwen also wrote that with this realization he felt "freedom" and "a great open space where I could invite all those I love and pray that God touch them with his love." He also found that instead of saying "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner" he would say, "Lord, have mercy on us." Through incorporating his entire life into prayer, it was easier for Nouwen to look outside himself because he was no longer separating prayer from his life. 

It is my firm belief that a relationship with God should indwell every part of the believer's life. We cannot separate our relationship from doing dishes or going to church. God is always with us so why not talk to God when participating in the activity of life.