Sunday, November 23, 2008

We had a great discussion this morning at Church led by our Pastor about learning to pray. I hope my fellow church-mates don’t mind me posting their thoughts. Names and genders have been left out to protect the not so innocent and to protect me from any pain they may want to inflict on me after reading this! Here are some of the things I heard:

One person spoke of how their prayer time, mostly in the car, has primarily turned into a time of gratefulness. Amazingly enough, this prayer has come out of a particularly difficult few years.

Another person spoke of how it helps them to pray when they find themselves in difficult situations if they have been spending time reading scripture, or intentionally getting away to be with God. They described this time as creating a “reservoir” that they can tap into when they need it.

One person said they wanted to learn to “communicate with God as opposed to just talking to God.” I thought that was a wonderful desire and a beautiful way of describing what prayer is all about.

One other person said how good it can be to have people pray for you, especially experienced intercessors, and how they noticed the difference it made. This made me think of my 91 year old Grandpa who prays for our whole family on a regular basis.

Someone else spoke about reading Psalms until they connected with God. They thought it was interesting how David was called “a man after God’s own heart” and yet he was such a whiner. BUT, as this person pointed out, David and the other Psalmist’s would whine and complain until they could say, “God I know you are with me, and You are awesome.”

Another person spoke from recent personal experience about the difficulty of praying according to God’s will when their own desire began to seem like something different than what they thought God’s will was. The kicker was the thing this person desired was a VERY good thing and something we were all praying would happen. It wasn’t something like winning the lottery, but something very personal and potentially wonderful. This person described how they, with God's help, had come to a place of peace and acceptance with God’s will and how things eventually transpired. Wow.


A real desire to wait on God and discover His heart and will was expressed a number of times. The question was raised, “how do we do that?” It made me think of Dallas Willard in his book “The Spirit of the Disciplines" and to summarize with one word it simply takes “practice.” One time Ryan Walter, a former professional hockey player, told me he worked it out one time and figured he had spent tens of thousands of hours on the ice, so that what looked so natural in a game had actually come from hours and hours of practice. Seems kind of unspiritual, but learning to pray simply takes practice. Practice in waiting, listening, being open, aware, and responding to God’s love and presence.

All of these observations came from deep, sometimes heartbreaking situations. It made me appreciate their observations all the more. It’s one of the things I love about my little church. Everyone is so real. If life sucks, or they connect with God by climbing trees, or praying doesn’t seem to be working for them, they say so.

One thing that was ringing in my ears this morning was the disciple’s request of Jesus to “teach us to pray.” We can read books, and even learn from others, and it’s all good, but how many of us just sit down with God for a few minutes a day and simply ask Him to teach us to pray like the disciples did? I believe it is something He will do. It is something He wants to do. It’s a wonderful, sometimes painful, journey to go on with God.

I’ve been asking God to teach me to pray most of my adult life. Most of that time has been marked by absolute, abject failure in so many ways. I sometimes feel like Paul and want to tell people that I am the worst sinner in Christendom. However, this time has also had a little bit of wonderful eternal bliss and God's grace mixed in too. All I can say is, He is teaching me to pray and I hope he never stops because after all this time I still desperately need Him, and still feel like a beginner.

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