Summer of Prayer #1

I am a Regent student. I am highly intelligent. I am three-fourths of a way through my M. Div. I am talented. I have a good singing voice. I am personable and have good people skills. I am a good leader. I am a damn hot preacher (humility demands that I speak the truth here). But one major thing I lack. I am not a good pray-er.

Every one of the great leaders in Church history, the movers and the shakers, those that really made things happen, we’re pray-ers. I also pray, but I pray paltry prayers. I don’t prayer, except as either as a last resort or because I want to make sure I did all that I am supposed to do (i.e. I pray about worship when I lead, I pray through sermon preparation, when those I love are hurting and I don’t know what to do, when people ask me too, etc.). What I am not, is a habitual pray-er.

I lost my rule of prayer when I was doing urban ministry. Every morning, I and those with whom I lived with in community, would gather together and pray for the day. Often this involved reading a Psalm, because the Psalms show us how to pray (thank you Bonhoeffer). But we got burned out. It is hard to pray and intercede for people when you don’t see God’s hand outstretched to heal. We prayed for our neighbors, the abused, the addicted, those relegated to a sub-par-existence by virtue of their socio-economic status and neighborhood. We struggled to be faithful but lost our hope and expectancy. My prayer life suffered.

Since being at Regent for three years, there have been some recoveries. I have recaptured and grew into a sense of wonder when I think about the Triune God and about the Incarnation. I can worship and have hope. I have thought through Biblical difficulties and have reflected on theology and ministry. I have been healed in the process. But I have not fully recovered my prayer life.

This summer I have decided to read through all the books on prayer on my shelf. I know reading of prayer is not the same as praying. But my hope is to recover my praxis and theology of prayer. I want to be a minister of the Gospel who lives his life in relationship with the triune God of whom I preach. I want to be a person of pray-er. I want to be one who intercedes and prevails. I want to a fire with spiritual power, and not just work out my calling on my own power.

I know that there is something a little bit, super hero-ish about my wanting to succeed and conquer the realm of prayer. Yeah, I know there is an immaturity in that that does not exhibit itself in the lives of those who are real pray-ers. Oh well. Certainly, they must have also had the hunger I do, even if they could describe things more altruistically. I really believe as I press into prayer, God will straighten me out, humble me and save me from myself.

I have read one of the books on prayer this weekend. It was Kenneth Leech’s True Prayer. It was probably too advanced of a book on which to begin. The strength of the book was the way it utilized the framework of the Lord’s Prayer to explore the multiple dimensions of the Spiritual life and the life of prayer. There are things I want to come back to here. Leech is a spiritual director and a master of grounding his theology of prayer in the Christian tradition. There was a lot of deep things I want to press into. It probably was wrongheaded to read a book like this so quickly, but I now have the lay of the land, and I will traverse this terrain again. Leech was good about showing both how to practice prayer and what practices nurture the life of prayer.

Several other books which I will read, also follow the outline of the Lord’s prayer. I think I will enjoy reflecting on how the prayer Jesus taught us, forms us into the faith.

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