Growing-up in church I heard an occasional sermon on prayer and it basically was centered on well known scriptures like:
Prayer was basically asking God for things and it was obviously very biblical. If my prayers were not answered I was told that I needed to pray more and to pray more faithfully and fervently. So I went through several versions of doing just that; but each time I doubled down on this kind of praying, something told me there was something more.
Decades later, as I’ve had lots of time to reflect on and experiment with praying, I’ve realized that there IS another side to prayer that I never heard much about. I now look at prayer as having two major dimensions: Prayers of asking, yes, but also prayers of presence.
There are similarly many scriptural passages that call our attention to the prayer of presence, such as:
Another of my favorites is Revelation 3:20, which draws the beautiful image of us opening the door to God and him coming in to have dinner with us. What illustrates presence better than have a wonderful meal together?
So I began to realize that when I focused more on praise, thanksgiving and meditation in my times of prayer, I was actually cultivating these soul-touching moments in the presence with God. In these forms of prayer, I wasn’t really asking for anything except his presence. There are several others forms of prayer that fall into this category of prayers of presence: confession, lamentation, contemplation as well as observation of nature.
This is a very subjective matter. It’s different for everyone, but there are some commonalities that can help get us started:
Whatever this moment looks like for you, what is most important is that this takes practice. It is much like exercising a muscle or learning a musical instrument. It takes time, effort, patience and repetition, but the rewards are very much worth it. It will literally change your life.
This has obviously changed the way I pray, but it has also changed the way I think theologically. For instance:
A few years ago I heard a BBC interview with William Young, author of The Shack. He related a dream, where he woke up in the middle of the night as if he were in an amazing waterfall of creative ideas. After about an hour of ideas washing over him, he had the thought that he should get up and write this stuff down…then the ideas stopped.
The take-away for us in this story is that we are conditioned to see inspiring moments as unique events where we need to grab as much from them as we can, a zero-sum gain universe. Alternatively, we should see them as moments where we can learn, with some practice, to return there often. We CAN discover the path through the jungle of our lives back to the refreshing waterfall and come as often as we would like. We CAN discover how to return to the presence of God throughout the day, to bath in the waterfall of the I AM: of his peace, his joy, his love, mercy, patience, goodness, justice, kindness, wisdom, wholeness, beauty, faithfulness, healing, gentleness, self-control, calmness… .
Bio: David Brazzeal, a Canadian/American presently residing in France where he is a church planter, online professor, writer, composer and an occasional labyrinth creator. His basic mission is to introduce his creative friends to deeper spirituality, and his spiritual friends to heightened creativity.
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