Like spiritual practices, prayer is a very big topic about which thousands of volumes have been written. Yet, not only is prayer a very large subject, it is also a controversial one in many places, for when it comes to the subject of prayer, we often forget one slippery little detail…
Now, before you feel the need to call me a heretic, consider this fundamental presupposition that you will need to address: God is willing to meet us where ever we are.
That statement doesn’t just refer to geography, it goes much deeper that that. Each of us has a different personality, different expectation, hot buttons, ways of understanding and comprehending things. We have different life experiences, different fears, different cultural backgrounds and theological backgrounds… and God knows each and every one of us better than we know ourselves. He created each and every one of us after all, including our personalities, hot buttons, emotions and so forth. He wants an intimate relationship with each one of us, and thus why wouldn’t He know us so intimately; He is all-knowing isn’t He?
Since prayer is all about knowing God, relating to God and communicating with God, doesn’t it stand to reason that each of us would relate to Him slightly differently?
When you stop and think about it, isn’t that why there are many classical spiritual practices and not just one?
I have a dear friend, an absolutely wonderful brother in Christ who almost always begins a prayer by saying something like this: “Our most gracious and merciful Heavenly Father…”. I, on the other hand, just say “Lord…” or “Father…”. Which one of us is right and which one is wrong? In general, my friend is a tad more formal than I am; he is also 10 years older. If you think about it, he came of age when formality in social settings was still more or less the norm, while I came of age right around the time informality was coming into vogue; could that have something to do with it? It’s possible.
When I was a little kid, my parents attended the Episcopal church, and looking back, it was a “high” church, rich in tradition, ritual and ceremony. Each week the same prayers were read from the Book of Common Prayer of 1840; there was no deviation. For me at least, and remember, I was a little kid, God was entirely unapproachable, and a really scary dude, always anxious to smite somebody, little boys most of all! “Better mind your P’s and Q’s young man!”
When I came to discover that God was not only approachable, but that He desired a relationship with us, everything changed for me; terror changed to love, and I was eager to approach the throne of grace.
My friend came from a different church background than I came from;
maybe that’s where my friend and I grew to have different approaches; still, neither is “wrong”.
This then, is the first lesson about the spiritual practice of prayer: It is perfectly fine if you approach the subject a little differently than I do, as long as we both approach the subject honestly. With that said, in our next installment, let’s look at the model Jesus gave us for prayer, for it is full of insight.
See you then!