Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Take a Stand for Prayer, Part 3

I've mentioned that prayer is a discipline. It is work. And this kind of prayer is something I believe we are unaccustomed to in our world today. Yesterday I sat on a plane and visited with a lady from New England who was reading a book by a Jesuit author entitled Armchair Mystic: Easing into Contemplative Prayer. I asked her about the book, assuming she might be a Catholic. She said the book was good. She's a divinity student, a Protestant, and the book was assigned to her in a spiritual formations class.

In reality this is an area where the Orthodox and the Roman believer may have one up on us evangelicals. The Catholic tradition understands well the power of mystery in the contemplation of God. It's not that this is not a part of our Protestant heritage. The Puritans entered into this very well. It is that it has become a lost art among evangelicals since the Enlightenment and the advance of a analytically "methodological" approach to everything. To borrow from St. Augustine, we seek to understand in order that we may believe, getting the cart before the horse.

How can you and I counter this in our own lives? First, I think it would be useful to approach the Psalms from the perspective of seeing them as meditative prayers. That, after all, is what they are. Learn to pray the psalms, and then learn to model your prayers after them. Secondly, look at other prayers in the Bible. Do the same with them as they fit your circumstances. Above all, do that with the Model Prayer in Matthew 6: 9--13. Thirdly, set aside time for prayer in a place where you will not be disturbed and focus on God, his grandeur and majesty, holiness and infinity, and learn to contemplate his perfections. Let yourself get lost in the wonder of Who God is.

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