Learning to Pray

“I go to places where they know more about prayer than I do…”  says Randy Harris.  Good idea.  So do I.

Here is a list of 14 (or 15) places I have gone to seek guidance and language for a deeper prayer life.  How about you?  Where and What have you learned about prayer?

14. Prayer by Richard Foster

I have seen with my own eyes, the power of a community that practices the prayer of examen.  And there is much much more to mine and discover in the pages of that great book.

13. Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson

Not many books have challenged and changed my approach to the Divine Scripture like this one.  Quickly upon reading it, I saw that my informational reading of scripture was inept and that I needed to pursue (also) a formational reading.  The Ancient teachers have called it “Lectio Divina” – a slow, intentional, formational reading of scripture. It was one morning in the Young Adults class at Southwest, we were practicing Lectio Divina, as was our custom, at the beginning of our time together – and it hit me – this is prayer.

12. Henri Nouwen

Life of the Beloved – Making All Things New – Out of Solitude – Finding My Way Home – The Way of the Heart – Encounters with Merton – In the Name of Jesus – Can You Drink the Cup – Spiritual Formation – All of these titles and many more.  Can I say any one thing about Henri Nouwen?  He has taught me so much.  There have been times I have actually cried for his loss of life in our world.  If I could say anything to him, it would be “Thanks, Henri, for teaching me to descend with the mind into my heart.”

11.  St. Augustine’s Confessions:  

I remember where I was in that book, because I dog-eared the page, when it dawned on me that this entire autobiography of faith was nothing more than a very long prayer.  St. Augustine taught me that prayer truly can shape an entire life.

10.  Celtic Daily Prayer Book:  From the Northumbria Community

Here I learned that reflection on the lives of the saints who have prayed before us turns out to be prayer.

9. A Book of Hours by Thomas Merton

Merton taught me that it matters what we say to God and how we say it. When we cannot seem to summon the language to speak to God what our heart desires to say, then art/poetry is a beautiful way to say it.  It takes time, reflection, contemplation and patience.

8. I Lie on My Mat and Pray: African Prayers

I have only recently prayed with this little prayer book.  It is amazing.  I am learning to pray with others, “Give us today only what is enough to sustain us.”  For some people, when they ask God or thank God for food and sustenance, they mean it!  I am learning to pray with them and not just for them.

7. A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly

Thomas Kelly taught me to search for the Shekinah of the Soul and to reside there patiently, waiting for the Light to appear.  Christ is within us.  Prayer is about centering our minds on God and then moving from the head to the heart to meet with Christ.  I read this little book about once per year.  Amazing resource for strengthening your prayer life.

6. The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle

How do you pray with the church and not just alone in a church building with others?  Phyllis Tickle knows how!  By keeping the hours.  (See Acts 3:1).

5. Talking Back to God by Lynn Anderson (And spending a year with Lynn via Hope Network Ministries)

Here I learned a fresh new language for “answering speech” to God in prayer – the Psalms.  Lynn has taught me to use the psalms in private prayer, worship in the community, and in ministry.  And always with a fresh word – never rote.

4. Learning to Pray Through the Psalms by James Sire

If Lynn introduced me to the Psalms, the James Sire taught me how to make the language of the Psalmist my own.  Amazing book!

3. The Way of the Pilgrim by Unknown Author

The story of a traveler who finds constant communion with God.  This little story opened my heart to the ubiquitous presence of God in my life and world.

2. The Book of Common Prayer

Space.  We can learn all the prayer techniques and methods known to man, and not be any closer to God.  The truth is that the real work of prayer begins by creating space for God in our day.  The Book of Common Prayer introduced me to a common rhythm:  Morning, Noon, Vespers, and Night.  Whatever I do, I stop for these four.  It has changed my life forever.

1. The Hebrew Psalms

Can enough be said about this resource?  The most obvious and profound, yet under-used prayer guide in history.  Read one a day!  You simply must.

Oh, and perhaps most importantly has been this little prayer from a pretty important Jewish guy –

“Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

thy will be done

      on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

and forgive us our debts

as we forgive debtors.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.”

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