“Of all the spiritual disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.” – Richard Foster
As I’ve mentioned before, the spiritual disciplines are not individual silos disconnected from each other. Rather each practice depends on and enhances the others.
As we move on from discussing the first practice of meditation and onto the second practice of prayer it’s important to remember the foundational nature of prayer. All of the inward practices of meditation, fasting, and study in one way or another rely on prayer. Without prayer, meditation is simply silence, fasting is simply hunger, and study is simply reading.
Prayer is more than simply talking to God. One mistake I continue to make in my attempts to practice prayer is thinking of prayer as a one-way street where I talk to God. What naturally happens when I view prayer this way is that I eventually end up with a list of requests and nothing more; help this person in this way, help me in that way. It’s easy for prayer to become a laundry list of ways we wish God to act.
However, when we treat prayer this way it’s easy to start to view God as some sort of cosmic genie granting wishes. And if this becomes our view of prayer, then all too often we will create a dichotomy—either prayer “worked” or it did not. And if prayer doesn’t work, then why pray at all?
But as Richard Foster reminds us, prayer is not simply a monologue where we give God our grocery list; prayer is how we commune with God. Prayer is listening as much as it’s talking. Sometimes God will respond in the midst of our prayers by bringing a person or situation to mind. Other times God may respond later through what might seem like a coincidence.
The world we live in isn’t separated into the sacred and the secular; God doesn’t need to speak in an audible, booming voice in order to speak. Often times God speaks through the still, small voice.
This week, as you practice the spiritual discipline of prayer, try to spend at least a few minutes every day in conscious prayer. Thank God for the good things in your life, talk to God about the concerns you have or the troubles your facing. And as you go through the rest of your day, watch for the ways God might choose to respond.