Richard Foster in Celebration of the Disciplines states that of all the disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father. But may I say that is the cosmic potential of prayer that all too often most of us fall short of realizing. It takes effort to pray, it takes intent, it takes bringing ourselves to the reality of PRESENCE! It takes us to be disciplined in stillness and to shut up so we can hear God. So the typical prayer life defaults to “hail mary” desperation postures or a ritualistic meal time prayer recited by rote night after night. Few who take the name of Jesus Christ have a devout constant time of receptive and expressive interaction with the Trinitarian presence.
The goal of this time with you is to cast a vision for what a life in continual two way communication with the Trinity could be like and why it is not an option in the life of an Apprentice.
A few summers ago I spent weeks studying prayer. I utilized two resource: copious amounts of solitude and silence listening to God about prayer and a little book by Eugene Peterson called The Jesus Way. Of everything Peterson said the great take away of that book for me was when he said prayer is the street language we use with Jesus as He walks the streets with us. Is not that just the best! So I took that to Jesus in solitude and sat there for weeks thinking about the implications for ones’ life if that became reality.
The process came upon the following revelations and applications. Prayer is expressive and receptive communication with Trinity, it is to be constant. The Christian life cannot take place without prayer like a marriage cannot take place without communication. It is the ONLY way we have to speak to God as revealed in Jesus. and to listen to God as revealed in the Holy Spirit. It is the only language we have for listening to the commands, blessings, and guidance that God provides. We are most personal in our use of language and when language has to do with God we call it prayer. Prayer is the way the life of an apprentice is lived out.
In relation to the language of the streets with Jesus, prayer is the only way we have of bringing ourselves just as we are to Jesus in our daily life. Every day of our life is full of so much, opportunism, violence, opposition, uncertainty and decisions. In the midst of these and more we have a choice to take things in our own hands, listen to leaders from business, government or the church or stay focused in two way communication with Jesus through prayer.
In a world full of distractions how do we become people of perpetual communication with God. We train ourselves through practice. This is not works, not legalism as it will take tons of grace to accomplish. Remember grace is not opposed to effort in the life of an Apprentice. One way I have trained myself recently especially when I am on the streets full of distraction is what I call the Trinitarian Chat Room. Whenever I see an individual texting or phoning I begin to communicate with Jesus. Again this takes the form of both expressing and receiving. One day I was doing this on the commuter train to Chicago from the suburbs and can you imagine what my prayer time was like? Give this a try and I think you will see a drastic difference in your prayer time and before you know it you will no longer require props it will be a natural part of your life as an Apprentice.
A subset discipline of Prayer is Praying through the Psalms. The need to truly know how our human system works(mind,heart, soul) is the centerpiece of our formation to Christlikeness. One practice that fosters this process is a firm grasp and deep immersion into the Psalms as a mirror of ourselves. Calvin described the Psalms as an anatomy of all the parts of the soul. I like to look at our soul as our spiritual liver where everything we think, feel, choose and do passes through.
Praying through the Psalms informs us to the fact that what we are experiencing is true to the human experience in general at any given point in time and helps us reorient to a life that consists in a trusting and obedient following of Jesus.
In closing I would like to give you an additional application to the Trinitarian Chat Room above and that is an exercise for you to pray through the Psalms.
Listed here are eleven Psalms that lend themselves particularly well to everyday life.
Using one of these Psalms read through it. Read it then a second time underlining the verses that speak to your present circumstances. Then return for a third reading but this time read only the passages you have highlighted. As you read the third time compose and personalize a prayer in writing.
Your Psalm has now become your prayer.
I pray that these words will help you move forward in becoming a constant communicator with the Trinitarian presence.
Please share your experiences to affirm and encourage others.