Trying to pray

I used to be an expert at prayer.

When I was in college I would pray 1-2 hours a day. Early in the morning, late at night, and I even regularly participated in “prayer meetings.”

Then I got married, got a job (pastor) which brought with it the weight of leadership, and started having kids! I engaged in graduate studies, led growing churches, moved a few times, and found myself quite busy with life and the various responsibilities that come with being an adult.

Often I have looked wistfully back on the college days and longed for those kinds of passionate prayer experiences in which I lingered in God’s presence and enjoyed a vigorous prayer life.

I’m 35 now. Married for almost 14 wonderful years. Daddy to 5 ladies (soon to be 6). Pastoring a young church. Developing new friendships, recovering from the sting of a failed ministry venture, trying to organize my life so that I can pursue some dreams I’ve had for a long time while still being available to love and care for old and new relationships.

Bottom line, my life is like yours… busy. Busy with plenty of opportunities to engage and plenty of things to keep my mind, heart, and body running on overtime.

I find that I neither understand nor enjoy prayer as much as  I used too, and yet I am increasingly, and with mounting frustration, aware of the need of prayer in my life and the world.

So, I am reading books on prayer and seeking to get better at it by just doing it.

This morning I read something from Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, that resonated with me. I thought I’d share it with you too.

Reflecting on the familiar Psalm (46:10), “Be still and know that I am God”, Yancey writes,

‘Be still and know that I am God’: the Latin imperative for ‘be still’ is vacate. As Simon Tugwell explains, ‘God invites us to take a holiday [vacation], to stop being God for a while, and let Him be God.’ Too often we think of prayer as a serious chore, something that must be scheduled around other appointments, shoehorned in among other pressing activities. We miss the point, says Tugwell: ‘God is inviting us to take a break, to play truant. We can stop doing all those important things we have to do in our capacity as God, and leave it to Him to be God.’ Prayer allows me to admit my failures, weaknesses, and limitations to One who responds to human vulnerability with infinite mercy.

That’s an important insight. Prayer is a window of time in which I take a break from being God, and over time, as I develop the habit of prayer I learn that I am not God and become better at letting Him be God in my life, my family, the church I lead, the community I live in, and the world in general.

I’m working on it. Someday I’ll be better at prayer. I hope… uhhh… pray the same thing for you!


2 thoughts on “Trying to pray

  1. This is great stuff, Paul Peterson. I think Martin Luther said something along the lines of “If you don’t have time to pray two hours a day, pray three.” Yowzers.

  2. Right on time P2! It never ceases to amaze me how the term “one Spirit” seems to apply to how many of us clearly are struggling with exactly the same thing at exactly the same time so we can all learn from a lean on one another. That’s what I call church!

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