I have found that when I am tired or sick my formal prayer times dwindle. I still prayed, like when I was placed in a quiet room in the back of the ER at about 1 in the morning and was overcome with a very real sense I was dying. I prayed that I wouldn't die that way, at that time, in that place, knowing full well I had no say in the matter. I realized I wasn't really prepared to die and we all, as Christians, should be prepared to do just that, everyday. For I think it is in being prepared to die (and knowing that you can't kill us) that allows us to live life in ways that otherwise would not be possible. (that whole loving your enemy thing and loving God with all strength, heart and mind) But that is another post.
Something akin to this train of thought was written over at STR some time ago and is worth a read.
We have begun reading Richard Foster's "Prayer" in our Sunday School. I thought I would share some of his thoughts in the notes I've taken for the class:
True prayer is nothing but love. – St Augustine
God aches over our distance and preoccupation and mourns that we do not draw near to Him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness. He longs for our presence.
He is inviting us to come home.
Regardless of our situation- the Father’s heart is open wide and you are welcome to come in.
Loving is the syntax of prayer.
The first prayer Foster talks about is called "Simple Prayer."
To pray is to change. But the movement is first inward to protect us from being overwhelmed by God’s glory.
Simple Prayer- the prayer of beginning again
We yearn and hide from prayer.
Our busyness is a smoke screen as we are never to busy to eat or sleep or making love.
There are a number of “somethings” keeping us from praying. First is the notion that things must be just right, that our lives require fine tuning before we can really pray.
We all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives- altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter.
This side of heaven we will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough or know enough to pray rightly. It is in the very act of prayer that these things are addressed in due time.
In Simple prayer we bring ourselves before God, warts and all. In a very real sense Simple Prayer is about us. We are the focus- our wants, needs and concerns.
The most common form of prayer in the Bible. Examples of these are Moses complaining and Elisha retaliating against the children who jeered. But in the midst of these self-centered prayers something more arises.
Simple prayer is beginning prayer. It is daily bread. It is daily needs and we will never outgrow it.
When we pray...the real condition of our heart is revealed. This is when God truly begins to work with us.
To believe that God can reach us and bless us in the ordinary junctures of daily life is the stuff of prayer.
Frustration anger and tears are also the language of Simple Prayer. “Lay before Him what is in us. Not what ought to be in us..” C.S. Lewis
The details of our lives matter to God. Carry on an ongoing conversation with God about the daily stuff of life ala “Fiddler on the Roof.
1. Only one thing is required- Love
2. Never be discouraged by our lack of prayer- “The desire for prayer, is prayer….” Desire leads to practice and practice will increase desire. Give even our lack of prayer to God.
3. Let go of trying too hard to pray lest you get spiritual indigestion. Beware “spiritual greed.” i.e. wanting more of God than can be properly digested.
4. Learn to pray even while we are dwelling on evil. The Lord loves us perhaps most of all-when we fail and try again.
5. In the beginning strive for uneventful prayer experiences
Self-centered, narcissistic, selfishness. Rationalization and manipulation of our experiences so that we hear only what we want to hear. Self consumed we may lose sight of God altogether and worshipping “the creature rather than the Creator”.
Did you read #4? "Learn to pray even while dwelling on evil". That is an incredibly powerful realization is it not? That we can pray in that state? But it is very difficult to do and in fact most of us avoid all contact with God in those moments and those that follow, because we do not feel worthy, when in fact, it is precisley at those times when we should be praying all the more.
I am reminded of a sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in which he prays:
Lord Jesus, come yourself, and dwell with us, be
human as we are, and overcome what overwhelms us.
Come into the midst of my evil, come close to my
unfaithfulness. Share my sin, which I hate and which I
cannot leave. Be my brother, Thou Holy God. Be my
brother in the kingdom of evil and suffering and death.
Come with me in my death, come with me in my suffering,
come with me as I struggle with evil. And make me
holy and pure, despite my sin and death. (Advent Sermon Barcelona 1928)
So I'd like to invite you to come along and join my Sunday School class in reading this book on prayer. I'll post notes as we go along much as we did the Advent Study. May our love of God be increased and our prayer life be enriched by the power of the Holy Spirit as we take this journey.