I don't understand prayer. I think it used to be a simple thing -- at least I never felt troubled about it. "Prayer is just talking to God" -- isn't that what we've all heard? But for a long time I've suspected that prayer -- while it may be talking to God -- is not "just" anything.
And I have been bothered by this. I want to be a "prayer warrior." I want anything and everything that God will give me and I've assumed prayer is a means to greater intimacy with Him.
But what's the formula? The notes in my study Bible in Acts 10 say that Peter probably prayed three times a day. Paul writes "Pray without ceasing." Obviously you can't have set-aside times when you focus on nothing but praying, pray without ceasing, and have a life, so these have to be different types of prayer. And I get that. A conversation that Bruce and I have over dinner is very different from a quick text about what he should bring home for dinner, but they are both forms of communication with one another.
And when I say, "I'll pray for you" or "I'll pray for the tornado victims" it feels like a form of slacktivism. I mean, if I say, "God, please make Tony better," and go on my merry way never praying for Tony again, is that really satisfactory? It seems shallow and unsatisfying to me -- but if I spent time deep in prayer for everyone I know, everyone I love, everyone I'm asked to pray for, well, my legendary housekeeping "skills" will be even worse than they are now.
So I come to God not quite on my knees (I have two artificial knees and if I knelt on them I'd be in so much pain that the only prayer I could utter would be "Please get me off of my knees"), but with hands wide open and arms outstretched saying, "Please gimme. Give me more of You, give me more of your Spirit, more fellowship, more intimacy. Let my prayers be fervent and effectual. Let me pray the way You would have me pray."
If you know me you know I'm a book person. Next to my picture I've got a list of books that I'm currently reading. Most of them are for reading groups or classes. Or in the case of the Bible, it's something I read every day and intend to for the rest of my life. The two books I'm reading just for me -- books that I read with no schedule or time frame -- are The Master and Margarita and the Tim Keller book on prayer. I just started that one last night, but I really love it so far. He talks about two schools of thought regarding what prayer is: the first (which I've always kind of assumed) is to be drawn closer to God through prayer and the second is for specific things (praying for other people or situations, that kind of thing). I think I never thought of them as separate things, but I guess they are. Keller calls the first "communion prayer" and the second "kingdom prayer" and he sees evidence for both kinds in Scripture.
I've only just begun Keller's book so I have no great insights to share, but I will let you know what I find, if I have any breakthroughs, if he provides a "ten steps to an amazing prayer life" cheat sheet.