Moving Deeper into Prayer

How do you conceive or understand prayer?

Many of us understand prayer in terms of words:   we ask for things.  Whether the prayer is to God or the Universe, we make requests for something we believe to be good or to avoid what we believe to be bad.  This is sometimes called intercessory prayer.  But most people simply know it as prayer.

I think this kind of prayer makes sense for children.  To help a child understand prayer, prayer could be explained as talking to God.  From this perspective, it makes sense to teach a child to say a prayer of thanks before meals or to say prayers at bedtime.

Another common form of prayer found in Evangelical churches is praise.  Choruses that repeat words of praise or that express, “Glory to God!” and similar sentiments are often repeated.  This, along with prayers of intercession, is often the primary expressions of prayer.

If prayer has something to do with talking to God, communicating with the Divine, or being in a relationship with the Holy, it seems to me that always asking for things or repeatedly saying, “You’re great!” is a bit off base.  Think about a friend who only asks for favors and is always saying what a great person you are.  What kind of friendship is that?

The Hebrew Scriptures use a very different image of prayer than we do.  In the writings of the prophets and the wisdom literature, our relationship with the Divine is often presented as a relationship between lovers.  What is it that young lovers do?  They think about each other all day.  They anticipate being with each other.  They look for opportunities to spend time together and do most everything together.  They can’t seem to separate themselves from each other. Even in the midst of life’s disappointments and challenges, the Hebrew Scriptures present us with angry rants by the prophets — the tone of which is reminiscent of quarrelling lovers.

What about long-time lovers, married couples in the senior years of life?  They know each other so well that they no longer need words to communicate.  Instead, they recognize what’s happening for the other because they’ve grown so close to each other.

Prayer is a channel that opens us to be with the Divine and nurtures our relationship with the Holy One.  At times, that relationship may be like that of young lovers who just can’t get enough of each other.  At other times, the relationship may be more like the older couple who seem to think together as one.

If the words of your prayers no longer draw you into a closer relationship with the Divine, with an awareness of deep connection of Emmanuel, the God who is with us, then it’s probably time to let go of the words and learn to pray differently.  Learning to experience awe, wonder, a deep abiding peace or joy at the presence of the Divine will draw you to greater intimacy with the One who is at the center of your being.

As you begin a new year, how can you move more deeply into prayer?

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© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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4 Responses to Moving Deeper into Prayer

  1. Such a beautiful meditation. I would like to comment on your reflection: ” Think about a friend who only asks for favors and is always saying what a great person you are. What kind of friendship is that?” I think that framed within the context of the miserable soul (which we all are) who fails constantly, who wails over his shortcomings, who cries incessantly in this valley of tears, trusting in God’s mercy, but knowing that the soul is unworthy of God’s friendship, though He does give it to him, the soul should view himself relative to God as….but a spec of dirt….nothing. Viewing ourselves as incapable of anything good puts us in state of needing everything from God…hence asking in prayer for God’s assistance in all things is clearly taught by church fathers. Indeed, once we divest ourselves of self-reliance, self-empowerment, self-esteem…all enemies of the true love of God, then indeed, like children in need, our trusting prayer that God will provide is in fact beautiful in the eyes of our Lord. We know this from scripture but also from the revelations of Jesus to Saint Faustina and to Catherine of Sienna. The Lord says: What troubles me is that souls ask such little things of me believing I am God of limited means. I groan that they ask not great things of me, trusting that I am an awesome and powerful God.

  2. Kate Austin says:

    Wonderfully put.
    And now, like an old married couple, my Love and I dwell together, each knowing the other in comfortable silence.

  3. Lou says:

    Thanks, Kate. I appreciate hearing from you

  4. Lou says:

    Thanks for your comment, Andrew. I appreciate hearing from you.

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