This week we are discussing Chapter 3: Pray!” of the Rev. Scott Gunn’s book: The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus
The Model Prayer:
Any discussion of prayer begins with the Lord’s Prayer. Please take the time to read Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 11:1-4. When the disciples asked Jesus “How do we pray?,” the Lord’s Prayer is his answer. The Lord’s Prayer is always where we start in a discussion on prayer. Every Christian liturgy that we have beginning with the Didache (written about 100AD) to today’s prayer books across traditions and denominations employs the Lord’s Prayer. Take the time to slowly read and digest the Prayer. Outline, either in writing or just in thought, the different aspects of the Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is not a talisman or incantation. Jesus says “Pray like this” not “Pray these exact words.” A wonderful exercise in prayer is to (continually) rewrite the Lord’s Prayer to fit within our present circumstances. In Dante’s Purgatorio, the first step that the repentant take is to pray a unique and personal version of the Lord’s Prayer. Read Canto 11, and see how Dante makes the Lord’s Prayer his own prayer.
Simplicity of Prayer:
One of the chief impediments to prayer is our expectation that our prayer should be perfect and that God expects a great prayer. Particularly when we pray in public and aloud, we all want our prayers to be correct. But, Jesus specifically tells us that “in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words” and he reminds us that our “Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matt. 6:7-8. The only imperfect prayer that we can give is the prayer that tries to be perfect.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the standard prayer that should be prayed throughout the day is The Jesus Prayer. The entire prayer is simply the words “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (see, Luke 18:14). And in the Jewish tradition, the standard prayer is the Shema – “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. (see, Deut. 6:4). Simple short prayers are more than sufficient.
Neglect of Prayer:
Paul ends his first letter to the Thessalonians with the instructions to “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18. However, as we read on Good Friday, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matt. 26:41. The disciples, when personally commanded by Jesus to pray, instead fell asleep. There are times when we all fall asleep. But as the story shows us, when we are asleep, Christ himself prays for us. We should not neglect our prayers, but, when we do, Jesus is still there.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken Oscar. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here!
Come now,St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
put aside your busyness for a while,
take refuge for a time from your troublesome thoughts:
throw away your cares, and let your burdensome worries wait.
Take some time off for God:
rest a while in Him.
Enter the secret room of your mind:
put out everything except God, and whatever helps you to find him.
Close the door of your mind, and seek God.
Say now to God, with all your heart:
“I seek your face, Lord. Your face I seek.”