For all the ways of communicating, writing comes easiest for me. It is much more natural for me to first work things out on paper or keyboard before speaking them aloud. I am the opposite of a verbal processor.
This may be why prayer has always been difficult for me. Sitting quiet to think thoughts after God—that’s great. I can do quiet reflection. But when I attempt to string together my thoughts into a prayer conversation with God, it doesn’t take long before my mind has drifted. The thoughts are not necessarily off-topic, but the conversational aspect has evaporated. When I become aware of my drifting, I return to the conversation, but this back-and-forth happens so many times that I rarely walk away from prayer feeling super connected to my Lord (which is disappointing, to say the least).
Writing out my prayers is a help. My thoughts don’t stray as much, and I can pause to listen for the still, small Voice before writing some more. Despite this provision, I sense a lack in my prayer life (rather, a weak spot in my relationship with the Lord). Last year I read Timothy Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, which was excellent. Several practices Keller outlined I use once or twice a week to help structure my prayer time; my thoughts do not drift as much, nor do I monopolize the conversation.
And now, in Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, February’s chapter is all about prayer, and I’ve enjoyed thinking again what it means to converse with the God of all creation (that alone gives the brain a jolt). Foster sets right our notions of prayer from the opening page:
“To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The close we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ. William Blake tells us that our task in life is to learn to bear God’s ‘beams of love.’ How often we fashion cloaks of evasion—beam-proof shelters—in order to elude our Eternal Lover. But when we pray, God slowly and graciously reveals to us our evasive actions and sets us free from them.” (33)
Beautiful! Prayer is the means by which I come out from hiding to bask in the beams of God’s love. How I need that! It is in the warmth of His love that I can put aside whatever cloaks of evasion I have donned: sinful actions, habits, and attitudes that keep me locked into old ways, keep me from knowing God for who He really is. Prayer is where God is able to disentangled me from whatever binds. He makes all things new.
Pursuing God in prayer is how He enables me to know Him, forcing me to halt in the midst of my evasive actions and remember that God loves even me. Coming to that knowledge—again and again—changes a gal. And this is why I need to pray.
Are you reading Celebration of Discipline with me in 2016? I’d love to hear what you are learning from chapter 2!