Tuesday, August 09, 2011

You Ask, I Answer, Take 17

Today's You Ask, I Answer question comes from Johanna, in Germany.  She asked:

What does prayer mean to you? How do you cultivate your prayer life?

At this stage in my life, prayer is so central to who I am that it's funny to me to look back and realize that for many, many years, I hated prayer and thought of it as a sort of necessary obligation, and a boring and rather useless one at that!  In fact, it was so well known that I was not a fan of prayer, and particularly not a fan of praying aloud, that the friend who was my young life leader in high school would pointedly force the issue!  She made me pray in public at every opportunity she could.  It was nearly always my "turn" to bless the food when we ate together.  She'd let me know at the beginning of our small group prayer times that while the others had an option of whether or not to speak up and I pray, I'd better be opening my mouth and talking with God!  It drove me crazy, and became almost a game - how could I avoid it, and how could she force the issue!

Somewhere early in university, I began attending a new church, and encountered people who seemed to really believe that prayer was actually important and effective, and that it didn't have to be boring!  Some of that coincided with the time period where I encountered the 24-7 Prayer movement in a number of forms and places, and learned new things about prayer, and discovered creative expressions of prayer.  Some of it coincided with the time where I ultimately had a profound encounter with God, and experienced healing from some severe depression and oppression that had haunted my steps for years.

So, what does prayer mean to me?  I don't have a definition for form, and I'm probably far more lacksidaisical about prayer than some.  Prayer for me is anything that allows me to engage in conversation and relationship with Christ.  Sometimes it looks like actually sitting down in the very traditional way, and talking to God, but sometimes it looks like worship music playing, or writing, or doing something creative, or spotting something that reminds me of something or someone on my heart and challenges me to lift them before Jesus.

As for cultivating my prayer life, the biggest part of my prayer life is that for years now I've worked to cultivate my internal dialogue into a conversation with Jesus, rather than simply a monologue.  So, as I'm out walking, when I'm reading, when I'm going about my day and thinking, as things come up, I've mentally cultivated the habit of turning them into conversation with Jesus - thanking him for them, sharing my concerns with him, asking him questions about them.

I also have made a habit at various times of using prayer books, or guided prayers to carve out a specific chunk of time for prayer in my day.  Right now I'm using a little book by J. Philip Newell called "Sounds of the Eternal", which is a book of Celtic prayers, designed to fill a week, with a set of prayers for each morning and evening.  I generally just use the evening prayers, taking time to read through them and let them guide and quiet my heart as I prepare for sleep at night.  The prayers are quite lovely, and I really enjoy the repetition and flow of joining my heart with semi-ancient prayers each evening.

The house church I'm a part of also makes a regular habit of sharing our lives and concerns with each other, and lifting each other up in prayer, so that is also an integral part of my prayer life.  I'm still not a very big fan of praying aloud, but on a pretty much weekly basis I make the choice to do so.  To audibly talk to Jesus about the friends with whom I share life and church community.  And I'm blessed as they do the same for me.  I also have a few close friends with whom I take time to pray nearly every time we gather, and I'm thankful for them as well.

So there you have it!  Some of my thoughts on prayer.  It's a hugely important topic to me, one I could talk about forever, and one that I've done fairly extensive reading about, but these are some basic thoughts - the first ones that come to mind anyway - on my own prayer life, and it's importance and how I cultivate its growth.


christianne said...

Loved this post, Lisa (as I'm sure you can imagine I would!). Thanks for sharing.

Lisa said...

Thanks Christianne! :)

It was actually kind of fun to write this, and may be a topic I need to write a bit more about!

shallowfrozenwater said...

ok, so i hate to see this series end so i'll ask another question.

favourite colour? notice that i use the "u" in both words so you could even go off on a tangent talking about the quirkiness of words and just how particular you may or may not be about having things "just so". actually, that topic may be of more value to me since i'm the sort that doesnt care about some things like that but is very particular about spelling and grammar sometimes.
well, enough rambling. my question is more about being particular in some areas and not in other areas but if you just want to tell me what your favourite colour is and why then i'll just be satisfied with that.

Lisa said...

Your rambling question made me smile, Ian. I've added it to my list for future weeks!