We could say that we learn how to pray by praying. When one of the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Jesus didn’t give them a string of instructions; he taught them the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1–4). George Buttrick suggested that “Jesus taught the prayer, not as a fixed pattern, but as a type.” There are many types of prayer, and numerous books on the subject which describe various ways to explore and experience a life of prayer.
We can pray silently or aloud; while lying down, sitting, standing, walking or running. Some people write out their prayers; others keep a prayer journal. Some find praying the Scriptures helpful, and there are those who follow daily prayers that others have written.
Years ago, Leslie D. Weatherhead gave us A Private House of Prayer. He suggested that we look upon prayer as a house with seven rooms. In our praying we enter the rooms as they are numbered, which helps us, in an orderly fashion, to experience each of the important aspects of prayer. If this idea is new to you, you might like to try it. In the first room we affirm God’s presence. It is suggested that we should not hurry here. Room number two is where we praise, thank and adore God. In the third room we make confession, acknowledging our sins and unloading our burdens. Room number four is where we, by faith, open our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness and cleansing. In the fifth room we petition God, bringing to him our needs. Room number six is where we intercede for others—as Bonhoeffer said, we bring them to the cross with us. In the final room we allow time for meditation and reflection.
In The Kneeling Christian, we are introduced to Horace Bushnell, preacher, writer and man of God. Once, a friend of his was in the room when he prayed. Afterwards, this is what the friend said: “When Horace Bushnell buried his face in his hands and prayed, I was afraid to stretch out my hand in the darkness, lest I should touch God.”
There are many different ways to pray. Fosdick concluded that “every (person) must be allowed to pray in his own way.” But, however we pray, unless we are first of all, aware of God’s presence, we will spend the time talking to ourselves.
1. When I pray am I aware of God’s presence?
2. If I find praying difficult, have I talked to God about it?
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