I was not taught how to pray. Except by my parents’ example.
We did pray as a family and I was taught to pray every night before I went to bed. But no one taught me how to pray. That didn’t happen until I was in div school and realized that while I was being taught how to pray aloud, no one had ever asked me if I knew how to pray.
By that point, I had prayed a lot – very conversationally with God – sort of stumbling into the practice. I hadn’t done a good job of learning to listen yet, but I was trying. Since my div school was so concerned that I learn how to pray out loud in worship, I asked for and got a spiritual director – a friend, not a counselor but a teacher -who gradually ushered me into the depth of prayer. (It was more gratifying to pray silently or by myself than publicly by the way.)
Later I met my wife, Susan, and discovered through her other ways to pray. Susan is such a visual person that it’s better for her to pray with her eyes open. She’s learned to deal with the fact that such a practice is disconcerting to some folks but it works that way for many people: she’s better at praying when she focuses on one external object rather than have all the multiple images that will flash through her mind’s eye – because she is so visual – if she simply waits to have someone pray aloud.
I have been blessed to learn in my life that lots of folks struggle with how to pray. I suspect that’s because, regardless of whether they are lay leaders, pastors, or life-long Christians, they have never been taught. Jesus’ disciples had to ask him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
So, if you are curious and/or want more prayer, more communication with God in your life, what can you do?
- Get yourself a teacher/spiritual director;
- Remember that praying for most of us is a learned gift and your “prowess” at praying will take time to develop;
- Give yourself that time. For me that means a certain time of day and a certain amount of time in order to practice what I have learned I need to do to communicate with God;
- Remember that like all relationships and the communication within our relationships, such things, prayer included, ebb and flow;
- Be patient with yourself and with God as you cultivate this gift that lies within you.
I am praying for you.
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Hello from Harvey – LORD TEACH US TO PRAY
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