Dr. Jody Clarke, one of my seminary professors, says that “the first journey is always an inward one”. I invite you to intentionally consider your own life journey and your experiences of prayer.
To begin, think about prayer and how you might enter into your own experiences more fully. Julian of Norwich says that “the more [we] see of God the more [we] desire God”. Perhaps you have a fixed form or time of the day set aside to pray. Perhaps your prayers are more free form, extemporaneous and even random. Do you experience silence in prayer as a listening device or do you open yourself up to experience conversations with God? Do you ever sense God searching for you and so you respond to God’s initiative in prayer? You may respond “yes” or “no” to any or all of the above possibilities. You may have your own experiences of prayer to add to this incomplete list.
Even when we are not consciously aware, or even know what to pray for, or how to pray for it we already have the grace of God’s Spirit interceding for us. Paul assures us that God’s “very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words”. (Rom. 8:26b, NRSV) And, in Matthew’s biography of Jesus, Jesus assures us that he is present wherever two or three gather. (Matt. 18:20, NRSV) Recently, I have come to understand Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the second or third with me when I pray alone. Perhaps your own experiences, your thoughts and your feelings about prayer might be assisted by this idea that you, in your praying, are being assisted by God. This is the idea that I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer has in mind when he says that whenever, wherever and however scripture is read, shared, preached and meditated upon; God is breathing a prayer into that moment. (paraphrase of Bonhoeffer in “Life Together”, Ch. 2).
Wherever you find yourself at this time, I invite you to consider the path of your life and your experiences with God as a means of relationship, an experience of prayer. Are you part of a faith community? Are you new to the faith, unsure about faith or seasoned in faith? Do you think of yourself as part of a specific religious tradition or none? At this moment, it matters not. There are no wrong answers here, only starting places and next steps.
© 2016, Douglas A. Beck