It’s a crucial practice in the life of any Christian, right?
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
These are just a few of the scriptures that teach us about and call us to prayer.
Perhaps my most profound experiences in prayer have come while I’m on a long hike or spending time enjoying God’s good creation. While I was hiking a long section of the Appalachian Trail this past summer, I learned how to “pray with my feet” on a whole new level. I’m sure the fact that I was hiking for 6-8 hours a day with little human interaction contributed to the sense of God’s presence. But it was also because I was intentional about praying along a certain theme or passage of scripture each day.
Often, as I am talking to college students or young adults about prayer, I suggest that they use scripture as a tool. Lectio Divina is a sacred practice of prayer-full scripture reading that I have found to be a great practice. Because, often times, we don’t know what or how to pray. Typically, the “beginner” level of prayer that most Christians practice is basically asking for things. So when you get through your list, then what?
Scripture can often be a guide and even a short of mirror that allows us to reflect on our lives in light of the Word.
Dallas Willard would frequently share his practice and habit of beginning each day praying the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father…”) or the 23rd Psalm and I have adopted that practice myself. Usually, I’ll break one of those “prayers” into bite-size chunks and meditate on the meaning and application for you life.
This is also where the Lectio structure provides great assistance. It’s an experiential hearing of God’s Word that often begins with a time of silence and preparation. We invite the Holy Spirit to speak…calling our attention to a particular word or phrase. Then we move from the Lectio (reading) to the Meditatio (meditation) and reflect on this Word, laying aside distractions. This then leads us to Oratio or response. Take time to respond in gratitude and worship. And finally, we come to Contemplatio (contemplation) and just spend some time with the reality of God’s presence and how that forms us throughout the rest of the day.
For many, putting prayer into practice like this can lead to real transformation…a sense of God’s presence continually. And when you’re aware of God’s presence throughout the day, life is prayer.
My own journey with prayer has taught me that it’s not so much about asking God for things (to change circumstances) but asking God to change us! To pray is to opt in to God’s agenda. Prayer is like an alignment of the soul. Yes, intercessory prayer should be a component of our praying but not the extent of our praying. And like any spiritual discipline, it takes practice.
Maybe that’s why “praying with my feet” has been such an effective way for some to grow in their faith and their sense of intimacy with Christ. Integrating prayer with the rhythm of my feet along a path teaches me to be aware and open to God’s Word and words as I journey further up and further in to the life of Christ.