One of the great blessings of summertime is that it sometimes brings a slower pace of life and an immersion in the beauties of God's world, both of which provide an opportunity to think more deeply about our connection to God. Recently, I have become aware that I have neglected my own prayer life. And as usual, this has led me into a feeling of being very disconnected - - from God, from life, from spiritual energy.
In the complexity of contemporary life and the many voices calling for our attention, honest prayer is a psychological and spiritual necessity!
All of us are at different stages in our understanding of prayer. All of us have our own particular ways of praying - - regular planned times of prayer and spontaneous moments of prayer that grow out of who we are. For most people, certainly for me, the intensity of our prayers ebbs and flows over the course of our lifetime. During some seasons our prayer life is very intense, and at other times our prayers are hesitant, sporadic, full of questions, boredom and doubt.
I do believe that if we continue to work on our prayer life as best we can, over the course of life we grow more confident of the power of prayer, and we receive more joy and peace in it. Yet there are times when all of us wonder why we need to pray - - or want to pray - - or ought to pray, or to whom or what do we pray?
The disciples once asked Jesus to teach them to pray. That is the only instance in the Gospels in which the disciples make a specific request for a teaching: "Lord teach us to pray." (Luke 11. 1-4). In response, Jesus didn't give them a lecture on prayer, he prayed. He gave them a model prayer. We know it as the Lord's Prayer, the model prayer uniting all of Christ's followers in many places and many languages down through the centuries.
We all want our prayer times to open us to God's Holy Spirit. Mother Teresa famously said, "Prayer enlarges the heart until it is large enough to contain God's gift of God's Self."
People who say that their prayers are not answered may have the wrong expectation about what prayer should do, so they just don't recognize the answers that God provides to their prayers. After all, prayer is not a magic ritual that gives us the power to get whatever we ask for. Prayer is a two-sided conversation with God in Christ. Prayer is a relationship. In prayer, there is talking and there is listening. The listening part is sometimes hard for us to master. God has many ways of answering our prayers and we need to attune our spiritual ears to listen for God's answers.
One of the main ways we can hear God's answers to our prayers is through the Scriptures. If we are open to the leading of God's Holy Spirit, we can expect to hear God speaking to us through these writings that are God's Word. Through many centuries in many languages in many cultures, God's Word has spoken to people with great power. And one of the great answers it offers is "life is good; eternal life is better."
The Bible is full of answers to human prayers, and so if we are listening for answers, we need to spend time listening to God in the words of the Bible.
Richard Foster is a good guide to the spiritual life, and he says, "We should never make prayer too complicated." Just resting in God's presence is a prayer that can "enlarge the heart."
Pastor Nancy Becker