The First Steps of Prayer

The First Steps of Prayer

There lies on my bookshelf a book titled Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, which I am sure you’ve heard about it or perhaps you have it in your library at home as well. I often look at this book, thumbing through it every once in a while to find the right gleaming nuggets of wisdom and helpful practices it recommends. My hope is that it will help improve me — improve production, improve life, improve my sense of “being.”

And then just a few books away from Tools of Titans is another book on my bookshelf titled Prayer by Richard Foster. The two books, juxtaposed on the bookshelf, offer an interesting contrast in ideas about the help I need. One, I would argue, is a singular tool that offers more help than all the tools and recommendations mentioned in the other book. 

This is my second time to write about prayer in the last few weeks, but let me ask you, what is your theology of prayer? Is prayer something you grew up participating in? Do you see it as a good luck charm like a pre-game ritual or a fuzzy rabbit’s foot? Or has prayer been imbedded in your lifestyle of walking in faith?

To be honest I can see myself dabbling in both of these categories at various times of my life. I grew up praying before meals, at bedtime, when someone was sick or hurt, or even on Sundays during corporate prayer. Sometimes I meant those prayers and sometimes I was just going through the motions so I would appear compliant. I’m pretty sure I prayed before every big test, begging God to make something out of my studying effort from the night before. And, as I am now spending lots of nights watching my son play junior high football, I am transported back to the days of praying that I would just catch that big pass. And now I pray to God constantly for his safety.

I realize now that some of those early habits of prayer have become imbedded in my faith journey. I actually am thankful before meals and grateful for another day of life at bedtime. I find myself praying when people come to mind throughout the day and starting my day in prayer helps me re-center my life and find a new perspective for what’s ahead. I now see how prayer reminds me I am not alone, I’m not in charge, and that I need to surrender to God’s plan for my day.

There is a Latin phrase that guides Anglican faith and practice. Lex Orandi, Lex Crendendi  means that means what you pray is what you believe. This phrase really rings true in life. If you believe prayer is something small and “extra” then your spiritual life will reflect that as prayer loses its ability to ground you and provide substance for your life. When things get really difficult, fluffy prayers really won’t cut it anymore. Prayer requires belief, time, listening, faith and the ability to sit quietly in God’s presence whether or not we “hear” anything at that moment in return. 

Developing a prayer life is an on-going practice. It doesn’t just happen overnight but is a response to God’s invitation to take steps toward into a life of prayer. First steps might be intentionally looking for ways to pray throughout your day. Start each morning thanking God for another day before even getting out of bed. Set aside 10-15 minutes to pray and listen for God. In Richard Foster’s book titled Prayer, he says, “We will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough in order to pray rightly. We simply must set all these things aside and being praying. In fact, it is in the very act of praying itself —the intimate, ongoing interaction with GOD —that these matters are cared for in due time.”

This brings me to the point I want to make. If you don’t know where to begin, or how to begin, or hesitate to being because of a fear of what to say or not say, let me encourage you to just begin. Prayer is not something to master the way we try to master the way of successful “titan‘s tools.” “Simple prayer involves ordinary people bringing ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father.” 

Let me encourage to to being praying with this prayer by Richard Foster. I have found it so helpful in my own personal life. 

Dear Jesus, how desperate I need to learn to pray. And yet when I am honest, i know that I often do not even want to pray. 
I am distracted! 
I am stubborn!
I am self-centered!
In your mercy, Jesus bring my “want-er” more in line with my “need-er” so that I can come to want what I need. 
In your name and for your sake, I pray.
Amen.