Many Christians struggle with prayer. There are various reasons why this is the case. Some responses I’ve heard over the years are busyness, laziness, and uncertainty. There is a time factor that is at play when it comes to prayer. That is, you must make it a high priority or it’s easy to forget. The busyness of life gets in the way, such as friends, family, children, work, and so on. Simply put, it’s not difficult to let other occupations keep us from God. If we are honest, laziness may also be at play when it comes to our prayer struggles. The uncertainty of if our prayers will be answered may also contribute to our lack of prayer. Will God hear my prayer? Is He too busy for me? Does He love me? You know, those questions that you ask when you’re alone even though your theology is “solid.” Perhaps, there are other factors in view when it comes to this wrestling within our souls.
However, it is true that prayer is an essential discipline that reveals our relationship with God. This spiritual practice helps God’s people commune and communicate with him in such a way that brings joy, laughter, solitude, comfort, and even tears. Even though it is a form of communication with God that requires both active talking and listening (i.e., listening to God speak in his Word), it should be thought of as a wellspring of encouragement that fuels us to become mature men and women that reflect the heart posture of humility and dependence upon our Creator.
John Onwuchekwa has said, “Prayer is oxygen for the Christian. It sustains us. So, it follows that prayer must be a source of life for any community of Christians.”(1) Followers of Jesus are being shaped by everything, whether positive or negative. Amazon is shaping our culture to become more consumeristic. Social media is molding our culture to become more “instant” and impatient. What does it look like for us to be shaped more by prayer? I believe we need centering prayer.
Meditation and Solitude
“Centering prayer,” wrote Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, “is an ancient form of prayer that joined meditation on a word of Scripture with prayer. It provided a simple way to center one’s life in God’s presence.”(2) It’s the very practice of being in the presence of God and listening to him through his Word. “The goal is to so dwell in Christ that the fruit of this dwelling begins to show up in your life.”(3) This posture should lead us to mediate and be in silence for a period of time. This may make us uncomfortable, but there is biblical evidence of waiting in silence. One of the Scriptures that comes to mind is Psalm 62:1–2:
For God alone my soul waits in silence.
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress: I shall not be greatly shaken.
My encouragement is to take time in the busyness of life to not only talk to God but to listen to God. This practice of contemplative prayer helps us do that. Even during racial tension and division. Being still before God can help orient us to lament and pray for healing. We tend to worry about race and ethnic disunity, but how often do we pray about it? How often do we listen to God about it? How often do we sit in silence like the psalmist? I’d like to invite you into this practice on centering prayer.
- (1) John Onwuchekwa, Prayer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 23
- (2) Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009), 236.
- (3) Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, 236.
- Set aside 10 mins (or more if you like). Set a timer.
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. (Watch your breathing)
- Choose a word in a Bible passage or verse (e.g., love, joy, peace, grace, remain).
- Take time to be quiet and rest in the love and God knowing that you have been saved and adopted into his family by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
- As your mind wanders (and it will) remember that word that will help you get back to the center of God’s love. Imagine being comforted in the arms of God.
- After the timer goes off. Don’t hurry! But slowly, take a deep breath and recite the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9–13).