If there is any spiritual discipline that is practiced more than others, it is prayer. Nearly every religion that I know of has some form or variant of prayer. My own life tends to be taken up with prayer more than the other disciplines.
As a Christian, I pray to the Father, through His Son, by the Holy Spirit. Last year, I took a class on prayer that opened my eyes its the richness and variety. Jesus himself did not pray in one way or manner all the time but prayed in various ways: short prayers, long prayers, in solitude, in community. It was then that I began to explore the different forms of prayer and here are some of the ways I have found help me relationally with God:
- Simple prayers. I like simple prayer because I always feel as myself when I pray. There are no pretenses in simple prayer. It’s just me and God in discourse. Sometimes I pick a name by which I want to address God (for example: Lord, God, Father, Jesus, etc.) and a need (for example: help me, give me wisdom, etc.) and pray that. I will sometimes do these as “breath prayers”: As I inhale, I pray His name; when I exhale, I pray the need.
- Scripture prayers. Some would think that repeating words of scripture might be vain prayers. They would take that from Jesus’ warning about those who think they would be heard for their vain repetitions. I think the keyword there is “vain.” I haven’t found many times where non-scriptural prayers have outdone scriptural prayers—instead, it has been the opposite. I often find that scriptures, especially the Psalms, better express what I’m feeling than my own words can. My concentration is better when I can focus on praying a short sentence in Scripture, than just free flowing my own without my mind or my heart engaged in the prayer.
- The Jesus Prayer. This is something I have learned from Eastern Orthodoxy. The prayer goes like this: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me[, a sinner]. I sometimes use this as a breath prayer or a contemplative prayer. I have had some interesting encounters with Jesus through this prayer.
- Contemplative prayer. This prayer involves silence and meditation. Sometimes I choose one of God’s names (like YHWH) and just meditate on it for a while. I will sometimes contemplate on Jesus’ humanity or on His passion. I will also meditate on a particular of passage of Scripture, allow it to permeate me, and meditate on ways I can apply that Scripture to my life.
- Glossolalia. This comes from my charismatic and Pentecostal background. I first experienced glossolalia in a charismatic Roman Catholic group. It continued through my time in Oneness Pentecostalism. I consider this to be a gift of the Spirit that God has given me and so I continue to utilize it as a devotional.
- Community. I have been involved with the International House of Prayer Northwest for a few months. This is a community that gathers to pray. There is just something about the way God moves among His people as they are gathered in community. One of my favorite nights are Fridays from 10 p.m. to midnight. It is a time of intimate prayer and worship. I always leave being transformed in some way by Love. I long for one day to live in a praying community as this.
As I have engaged myself in these various ways of prayer, I have found that prayer is about relationship to God. It is never a formula or method to get something out of God. In the way I understand the dynamic between a believer and God, one’s faith in and closeness to God moves him to respond; there are also times where one’s relationship with God causes that person to pray according to God’s will, which may be totally different than one’s own.
How is prayer lived out in your life?