One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ (Luke 11:1)
My father taught me how to practice prayer. Every night before I went to sleep my father would have my sisters and I kneel with him to pray a prayer. Every night, same time, together, we would pray this prayer.
Growing up I would need to say this prayer for comfort before bed if I was away from home for a night or three; and after I moved away from the family home I needed to say this prayer before I could settle for sleep; and when I was anxious or fearful I would say this prayer to soothe me, and now as an adult I choose to repeat a familiar prayer before bed to signal my mind to let go.
For most of my Christian faith journey, corporate prayer has been a stressful experience. I disliked praying out loud with others. I felt threatened when there was a directive to divide into small groups and to pray for one another or for an issue. I felt I was always inadequate with my words, clumsy with the delivery, short of being biblical, knowledgeable and fluent. I realised I would often compare myself to others, always wishing I was better, with the frequent feeling of embarrassment afterwards that would cause me to plead to God through tears, anger and helplessness to change this experience for me. Please God make me a better communicator, touch my tongue and speak through me God!
I read books about prayer, I tried to learn bible passages by heart and I attempted to memorise prayers before I went to church groups or church meetings to reduce my anxiety and sense of inadequacy. But it was hard work. And I felt I wasn’t improving in corporate prayer performance. Until something else shifted.
It was when I took up employment in the field of my vocation. It was this job and the next that I found myself becoming incredibly stressed, overwhelmed, out-of-control and desperate……for six and half years. As a consequence, I stopped trying to learn how to be an effective pray-er, and instead sought solace in worship music, silence and God’s Word every single morning. Because this is what my nervous system needed. And my mind needed. And my sanity depended on it. And little by little, my mind came to be filled with lyrics from worship songs and words from my morning bible study as they circulated in my head throughout the day. This lead me to feel God more and more; I found I came to attach to self better; I desired to surrender to having the Holy Spirit lead my day and remarkably, my prayer life changed.
Because now when I prayed out loud my meditative morning musings in the Word of God, in Worship and in Silence would bubble up and flow out more gracefully, more authentically, more Child-of-God me.
Oh how grateful I am to my biological father for his faithfulness in modelling how to move towards a connection with our Heavenly Father.