Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prayer and Life

Tonight I learned what very well may be the most important thing I've ever learned about prayer, and I learned it in one sentence. I'll give you two for context.
We pray from the same base as we live. Our prayer reflects the way in which we respond to life itself, and so our prayer can only be as good as the way we live.
-Esther de Waal, Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict

I'd be a bit surprised if this hit you the way it hit me, but for me this was one of those things that as soon as I read the first sentence above I said to myself, "Of course! That's what I've been overlooking."

I tend to struggle with prayer, by which I mean the oratory kind of prayer. I can't sit myself down and speak to God. It just doesn't go well. And from what I gather, this is a common experience. If Esther de Waal's insight is correct, and I think it is, this is likely because we (those of us with this struggle) live a life relatively free of God for 23 hours and then expect to be able to sit down and commune with God in the other hour.

Actually, that's not quite my problem (and probably not quite anyone else's either). I possibly spend more time thinking about God than anyone I know. What I fail to do, or at least fail to do consistently, is relate my "secular" activities to God. Take cooking for example. I like to cook, but I don't think about God while I'm cooking. Yet if you think about it there's a really deep connection there.

And so I have this result. Lectio divina really clicks for me as a form of prayer. I open the Bible. I listen for God's voice. I "hear God's voice" (I'm reluctant to say that too strongly). I respond. This works for me. But I have trouble integrating my personal life into prayer. Trouble is, I've been approaching prayer "from above".


David said...

Each week day morning I try to get over to our chapel for a time of prayer. I choose the chapel because it is much smaller than our sanctuary, and a little more, shall we say, antique.

As I contemplate the daily text, I focus on the large stained glass window of Jesus the Good Shepherd in the chancel . This allows me to center myself on Christ for the day to come.

My time in the chapel is usually only about fifteen minutes, but it is time well spent and I have come to enjoy my few minutes alone in quiet reflection.

toujoursdan said...

Very insightful. I also have trouble relating my day to day activities to God. You have given me something to ponder.

Chris Sagsveen said...

Good points. Lately, I think the best prayer is what Pastor Michael Foss calls "Continuous Prayer". It seems to be my strongest prayer throughout the day because I basically just open up those communications with God no matter what I'm doing. Also, writing my prayers seems to work best - especially when there's difficulty "sitting yourself down and speaking to God". You're a good writer and I'm guessing you like to write. Maybe writing your prayers to God would be "praying from the same base as you live" (in using the principles from Esther De Waal.

Just some thoughts and thanks for the insights.

Andy said...


I'm very jealous. I usually end up saying morning prayer in my car at the park and ride.

Andy said...


That's a good suggestion. When I'm doing lectio I do write my prayers. For whatever reason, it hadn't occured to me to try to extend that to other types of prayer.

What's continuous prayer?

Chris Sagsveen said...

Andy - I'll use Pastor Foss's words to describe this, as taken from his book Real Faith for Real Life

"The practice of continuous prayer (CP) allows me to start talking to God at any time - with my eyes open or closed. CP is an outgrowth of daily times of prayer. We move in and out of our conscious awareness of God's presence."

Basically, it's the practice of talking with God whenever and wherever. Foss gives a three-step process for practicing cp:
"1. Take time at the beginning of the day to give the day and all of its activiteis in advance to God. Tell the Savior that you will trust him with each situation and every interaction of the day.
2. During the day, remind yourself that you have asked Jesus to walk with you through the day, that his presence is with you no matter what.
3. Whenever appropriate, take a moment to begin or continue your conversation with the Savior over what is happening or what has happened. Than him for keeping his promise to be with you.
In this way, continuous prayer will be like a clear stream of living water that will run through your day. You will have times to be refreshed by it. There will be times when your spiritual thirst will be satisfied in it. But whether you are consciously aware of that stream or not, it still flows."

Give it a shot.

Andy said...

Thanks Chris. Have you ever come across "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence? It's something similar to this. Brother Lawrence was a monk obviously. He said he didn't see how the scheduled "prayer time" was different from the rest of the day.

I've tried that before and had a lot of trouble with it. I used to think that it was something I'd need to develop into as if I could improve my isolated prayers some and maybe eventually get there, but what I get from de Waal's statement (which I think ties in with the continuous prayer idea you've offered) is that I had it backward, that if I don't have an attitude of prayer in my daily routine, my regimented times of prayer will suffer.

Chris Sagsveen said...

I haven't come across the article/book by Brother Lawrence. But I think you're right with regard to your regimented and daily routines. It all flows together.