Reflections on the Challenges and Joys of Daily Prayer
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
If you are reading this article then you and I share a common bond: a heartfelt desire to come close to God through prayer. The first disciples saw Jesus praying and became aware of a deep yearning to pray as he did. I imagine that they saw a man who was totally at one with God; a man filled with peace and the quiet confidence of holy communion. The disciples were undoubtedly already people of prayer, and yet when they witnessed the depth of Jesus’ prayers, they realized they had only touched the surface of the enormous riches awaiting anyone who opens his/her heart to a life of prayer.
Like the disciples, we are aware of our need to go deeper in our prayer lives—deeper than simply reciting the prayers from our Prayer Book on Sundays. We yearn for an intimate relationship with God. We seek to strengthen our confidence in God’s presence with us always. We want to be certain of God’s love that heals and restores and gives new life. We want to live in hope. But following up on this desire can be challenging and even frustrating. What do we say when we are alone with God? How do we react to silence? How can we quiet all of those thoughts and emotions within us, to truly listen to the “still calm voice” deep within us? How can we give ourselves permission to take the time to pray?
The first step in engaging in a deeper prayer life is to recognize our need to pray just as the disciples did when they saw Jesus pray and turned to Him for help in praying. The second step is to carve out a block of time out of each day to devote exclusively to prayer. I prefer the early morning when I first wake up; others may choose the lunch hour or bedtime. The third step is to quiet our “monkey minds:” our inclination to let our minds wander and swing from thought to thought.
The prayer by John Greenleaf Whittier, which was adapted to music in the hymn, “Dear Lord and Father of mankind forgive our foolish ways,” offers a keen insight into the heart of prayer:
Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our striving cease; take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.
It is this peace that passes all understanding that I seek in my daily prayers. May the peace of The Lord be with all of us during this prayerful season of Lent.
Appointed readings for today: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-28, Psalm 105:16-22, Matthew 21:33-43