I read something in Douglas Steere’s Work & Contemplation that helped me so much, I decided to paraphrase it into my own words:
“The habit of regular personal prayer is not built through talking about prayer, nor reading countless books about prayer, nor hearing (or giving) talk after talk about prayer, but by simply showing up day by day before God and staying put for a while. We pour out our hearts, and we open our hands to receive what He might give to us. Once we get past the honeymoon stage of prayer where everything may seem easy and delightful, we can settle in for the long, steady journey of conversation with God. The actual life of prayer is very different from stirring moments when we daydream about what living more prayerfully might look like. In actual practice, a person of prayer has given up more times than can be counted. Along the way, so many such prayers have been drowsed, distracted, drudged and even disliked so intensely that one might have actually awakened to the profound spiritual battle behind it all.”
How do we build a life of prayer? It isn’t by always feeling like praying. It isn’t by embarking on an intensive reading program of every book we can find on prayer and the spiritual life. (I like reading such books, I’ll admit. And I’m the midst of writing one.) I must simply pray as I can. I must make a regular habit of coming before God, felt or unfelt, pouring out my thoughts, desires, and love and being attentive to whatever expressions of love His wishes to offer to me through the scriptures, by His Spirit or in creation.
- If you were to describe your prayer life through the image of marriage, what season do you feel you are in? An engagement or honeymoon? The seven-year itch? A season of simple appreciation for the other? What do you want to say to God about this?
(And if you’d like, I’ve included the original quotation that I paraphrased above:
“If there is one point where this becomes clearer than at almost any other, it is in the building of a life of regular private prayer. This habit is built not in talking about prayer, nor reading pamphlets and books about it, nor hearing lectures about it, but by appearing day after day at the appointed place, at the appointed time, and staying put as we pour out our hearts and as we hold them cupped and open for His direction. Any man who is past the romantic honeymoon stage in the life of prayer and has settled in for the long run, knows how profoundly the very practice of this exercise itself differs from the high and luminous moment when in worship he may one day have felt how gloriously glad he would be to have time to spare for God. He knows that he has been beaten down and has stopped his ‘prayers’ completely a hundred times and more. He knows how often he has drowsed his prayers, day dreamed them, roted them, or even hated them with an intensity that might almost have tipped him off that he was wrestling with demonic forces.” (Steere, Douglas. Work & Contemplation. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, p. 135).
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