There have been times in my life when I found it extremely difficult to pray. That’s not something that is easy to admit in many Evangelical circles, ya know?
Once I had the pleasure of taking one of those spiritual gifts tests – because God totally quantifies our giftings and talents in such an empirical manner. Anyway, dead last on my list was Prayer. The looks I got from many of the other ladies in the room were not exactly encouraging. I was a leader for a large group of women. I had been Baptist since before birth. I was someone that was regularly called on to pray in Bible studies or small groups. But being able to string together a sentence of well meaning churchy words and actually communing with God privately are two different things. There were people who didn’t understand why I wasn’t one to make ladies prayer meetings at 6’o clock in the morning. Surely, I could sacrifice my sleep for God, right?
What they didn’t understand and what I couldn’t tell them was I wasn’t comfortable with prayer. I had been taught so many things about prayer that deep down I wrestled with. I would have had to admit I had struggles, doubt, and at times a crisis of faith. Deep in my soul, I wanted to believe in the power of prayer. Deep in my soul, I longed to fix the problems I had. But at that time, I couldn’t even explain my issues with prayer.
When I started going to therapy, my “life coach” introduced to me reading prayers. We talked at length about prayer and my hangups. She would lead me in a conversational prayer between the two of us and God. We talked about how to pray as a meditative exercise as well. In all of this, she took me out of my comfort zone entirely, but it was so incredibly helpful.
And then, in the past few months, I’ve been introduced to the liturgy. And prayers of various topics are recited corporately each week. Get this, they even have an entire book full of written prayers called… ta da!… The Book of Common Prayer. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I’m not sure why so many Evangelical churches have gotten away from corporate prayer. It’s instructional for new believers to learn about the nature and structure of prayer. It’s also a refreshing reminder for seasoned believers as well.
I wish now that I had been taught previously about reading written prayers. I think then during the times I’ve struggled, I would have been able to find someone else’s words and been able to apply them to myself. Yes, I know the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we can’t find the words. But deep down I desired to say the words and enjoy a conversation with my Father.
Here’s a beautiful prayer by Trappist monk Thomas Merton from his Thoughts in Solitude. Enjoy and meditate on it!
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.