A fourth-century prayer of adoration of Augustine (354-430). It is a source for his famous line about being restless until we find our rest in Him (lightly edited):
“O God Omnipotent, Who so cares for every one of us, as if You cared for them alone; and so for all, as if all were but one! Blessed is the one who loves You, and their friend in You, and their enemy for You. For we only lose none dear to us, to whom all are dear in Him who cannot be lost. And who is that but our God, the God that made heaven and earth, and fills them, even by filling them creating them. And Your law is truth, and truth is Yourself. I behold how some things pass away that others may replace them, but You never depart, O God, my Father supremely good, Beauty of all things beautiful. To You will I entrust whatever I have received from You, so I shall lose nothing. You made me for Yourself, and my heart is restless until it rests in You. Amen.”
Back in February, I preached a message on the theme of “Prayer Ruts I’ve Found Myself In.” I wonder if any of these sound familiar to you.
First, I sometimes get stuck seeing prayer as more monologue than dialogue. I forget that prayer is a relationship, and that relationships are conversational. I learn to allow space when I pray for silence and listening. I don’t fill the air with and endless barrage of words, making the mistake of thinking that more words = better prayer. I don’t reduce prayer to reciting my laundry list of wants and needs. (And some of the most mature pray-ers I know don’t use many words).
Second, in subtle ways, my prayer becomes more me-focused than God-focused. Maybe this sounds strange to you. God-focused prayer is rich in praise, adoration and thanksgiving. These are ways we let the goodness and glory of God capture our attention and fill our horizon. Then, from this rich awareness of God-with-us, we feel encouraged to make our concerns, our hopes, our feelings, our needs be known to Him. Prayer also becomes me-focused when I stop praying when it doesn’t “feel good” anymore.
Third, and ironically, I’ve found myself stuck when I think of prayer as only spontaneous and rarely repetitive. My evangelical background taught me to suspect written prayers that some in other traditions used. I was warned of the great danger of meaningless repetition. But I never remember being warned of meaningless spontaneity (which I’ve prayed a lot of) or meaningful repetition. Spontaneity sometimes becomes a kind of religious “verbal diarrhea” (which just sounds gross). I’ve come to deeply treasure the richness of praying the psalms, which over time obviously becomes repetitive since there are only 150 of them! I also appreciate the “prayer books” of other Christian traditions.
Do any of these ruts sounds familiar in your experience? Do you have any to add to the list? Please take a moment and add your comment via the link below, would you?
Would you like to explore one of the prayer book traditions as a means of enriching your life of prayer? Below are a few that I’ve used at times and appreciated: