Speaking to God through A Guidebook to Prayer
- Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I am encouraged for exactly the same reason. Experiencing prayer in this way made my daily experiences less frustrating; it mattered less if I felt the presence of God in the way I thought I “should” during prayer. Instead, I felt the power of the community of believers. As time went on God used conversation with others to teach me that I truly participate in the communion of all the saints when I pray. God has been teaching me that when I am speaking to him, I am speaking in concert with everyone who ever cried out to God throughout history.
I was experiencing God in a new and bigger way. As I prayed in the shadow of all the saints, I began to experience what I will call unintentional prayer. Whenever I gathered with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I found myself praying. Not aloud, not as some kind of ritual, but as an internal reflex. My thoughts took on a quality of speaking to God, rather than to myself.
The most shocking change was that I listened for a response from God in the voices of my brothers and sisters—and found it. God really was speaking through his people, and he had given me eyes to see it. I was again forced to reevaluate what prayer was. I had already discarded the idea that prayer was just between me and God. Now I found myself questioning if prayer is communication in the way I thought of it. If my internal voice is becoming prayerful by God’s grace, is prayer communication—or transformation?
The frustrations of my prayer life faded in the wonder at God’s transformational ability. He had made prayer an experience of community beyond any I had before and transformed an internal part of me where I hid sinful attitudes like envy and anger—using one line on a prayer website from Ireland.
One August I heard a rabbi teaching that if we would promise God that we would do something at the same time every day for the rest of our life, it would change us. I once more began a process I hoped would bring about a change in me for the better. I read that a pious Jew would read Psalms 145–150 every day before prayer, just to get into the right attitude. I promised the Lord that this is what I would do every day at 5:00 a.m. for the rest of my life. Of course I have started these kinds of projects before only to find that I couldn’t fast one day, certainly not forty days.
The first three weeks were difficult. I started writing down prayers for people and reading these after I finished my psalm ritual. This was great because it kept me from praying for the things I wanted. As my list grew longer I found more and more people and their situations coming to my mind instead of my usual financial fears about the future. After a couple of months I noticed a kind of satisfaction developing in me.
I eventually recognized this as pride that I was following through with my promise. One morning I felt like God just wanted me to be still. This was a real issue because I had my routine and I kept track of my consecutive mornings, and I was now in the seventies. I felt like God was asking me if my routine was the main reason why I was getting up or if it was just to be with God. Sheepishly and reluctantly, I did not turn on my laptop.
I sat still for about ninety minutes. I had no revelation and I did not hear God say anything, but I felt like I had a personal breakthrough. My mornings have become precious to me, despite no breakthroughs and some prayers not answered. Mostly I do my routine, but every now and then I will feel like I am just supposed to be still or read Scripture. I wait expectantly, not knowing exactly what I am waiting or hoping for, but nonetheless happy that I am waiting.
I have learned that it is quite all right to use my lists, read, pace or lie across the ottoman downstairs, as long as I don’t come to believe that any one or combination of these things is somehow necessary. I don’t see any changes in myself, but my wife says I have changed dramatically. She says I am more relaxed, easygoing and attentive. All I know for sure is that when the alarm goes off at five I get up with expectancy, as though a friend is waiting for me. Speaking of a friend, my everyday prayer used to be for godly wisdom, discernment and understanding.
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