Prayer is important. I don’t think anyone would argue with me on that at any point in time or place. Prayer is the first, the second, and the last thing we are to do. We are to pray continually. We are to seek God in prayer and when we seek Him, He is found. In fact, when we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.
But…it’s so stinking hard!
Over the last number of years I’ve experimented with different forms of prayer. Each one has its own merits, its own strengths, and its own…shall we say…struggles.
There’s the classic Lexio Devina where you focus just on one piece of scripture for weeks on end, praying on it, meditating on it, thinking on it. I got bored with it.
I tried journaling my prayers which worked great for a time…until it didn’t. After a while, I started feeling guilty about not journaling and then I put the journal in a drawer and conveniently forgot about it.
Recently I’ve been mixing scripture reading with prayer (you know, kill two birds with one stone). I read through the passage, I pray my laundry list, and I’m good.
Yet something was still lacking for me. Something is still just not sitting right.
And so it was suggested by an old, wise, sage of a man to read A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God. Long title but simple enough. It goes through the lectionary and the church year and indicates where you read and pray. It’s a "do-it-yourself" type of prayer book. Right?
Part of the reason why that’s a big ol’ nope is that it involves silence. I’m a loquacious extrovert (and that within itself is an understatement) and I don’t like quiet. I sat down to go through the book and as I did, I came to the requirement for a time of silence. Now the wise ol’ sage of a man never mentioned the requirement of silence. But, hey, I’m going to try it.
I set my alarm on my phone for three minutes.
Simple. Easy. I can do three stinkin' minutes.
As I sat still in the early morning when the house is quiet (with two kiddos who love to run around and argue for the sake of arguing, mornings are the quietest), I tried to be silent. But my mind starting whirling.
“Shhh, chatty monkey…I’m being silent,” I said to myself. I sat at the table, my eyes closed, my head bowed, and my mind whirling. I began to hear in my head “I AM SINGING THE QUIET SONG, THE QUIET SONG…” (something I taught my kids to annoy my wife…I’m a horrible husband). Not the best time. Shhhh, chatty monkey…I’m trying to be silent. What time is it? Has it been three minutes? Shhhh, chatty monkey…I’m trying to be silent.
I couldn’t bear it any longer. I had to look at the timer. 42 seconds to go! Again, bowing my head to be silent, the chatty monkey appeared again.
Silence is hard. Boy is it ever. Yet I’ve been prating it over and over like I would lifting weights or trying to learn guitar. This morning, as I sat down for silence before doing my devotions from the book on walking with God, I set my alarm, and was quiet. The chatty monkey popped up once and was quickly swatted away. And before I knew it, my alarm went off. I yelled with joy (hey, the silence part was over!).
Now, I’m not saying that I had some epiphany or new insight into the inner workings of God. My prayer life hasn’t increased exponentially where I could hold my own against Martin Luther’s three hours of prayer each day. Yet I began to have a sense of awe and wonder, a sense of entering into the holy as I approached God’s word.
Regardless of your mode of prayer, try a bit of silence. The chatty monkey WILL pop up. Silence the chatty monkey. There’s something about quieting the heart, the mind, the soul, and entering before the holy God in Jesus’ name. Now shhh, chatty monkey…I’m trying to be silent.