The Prayer that’s Less (23/30)

All right, the disclaimer: Most of what follows is stolen. And many of those parts are worth stealing. Feel free.

“Simply put, prayer is all the ways in which we communicate and commune with God.”

I can buy that.

In fact, I quite like that because it describes a fair bit more than the old childhood “prayer entry” song ever sang about: “Let’s fold our hands and bow our heads and close our eyes and talk… to… God.”

I’ve met few people of faith who don’t confess to a struggle with prayer. Even the occasional one possessing sufficient will-power to muscle through with such a habit often wonders if they’re “doing it right”. Every God-loving individual eventually hits a cold and dry season in prayer.

What if such a season is to serve a purpose? What if it is meant to direct us towards a new place?

“It signals an invitation to deeper levels of intimacy that will move us beyond communication, which primarily contains words and concepts, into communion, which is primarily beyond words.”

What about a prayer life that is not primarily about speaking? I’ve got to admit that I’m greatly attracted to, and slightly frightened by, the idea.

But I can’t help wondering if it’s not exactly what most of us are in serious need of.

Take Nouwen’s question, for example…

“How can we possibly expect anyone to find real nurture, comfort and consolation from a prayer life that taxes the mind beyond its limits and adds one more exhausting activity to the many already scheduled ones?”

What’s the taxing part of “prayer as we know it”?

Isn’t it frequently the creating of the words? We spend our energy most moments in “making” and “building”.  Then we enter the presence of our Father, the Maker of makers, and we feel the pressure to keep it up.

I’m increasingly aware of another way.  Here’s a couple voices that have spoken to me about this way…

John Climacus…

“When you pray, do not try to express yourself in fancy words, for often it is the simple repetitious phrases of a little child that our Father in heaven finds most irresistible. Do not strive for verbosity lest your mind be distracted by a search for words. Single words by their very nature tend to concentrate the mind. When you find satisfaction in a certain word of your prayer, stop at that point.”

And Ruth Haley Barton…

“We are purposely not very wordy in our intercessions, because we realize that this is another place in the spiritual life where human striving and fixing can easily take over.”

Fewer words?  Deeper places?  Show me more please.


Because I think I’m needy of what waits to be found down such a path.

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