I’ll confess it; prayer is difficult.
After hearing the carefully crafted prayers of professional religionists, I used to despair, thinking “I’ll never be able to talk like that.” Then, I became one of those professional religionists, and that didn’t make it better. I felt like people expected neo-Shakespearian prose from me when I prayed.
I had to re-discover that prayer, at its simplest, is our deliberate speaking with God.
Some wise Christians helped me re-learn this old truth: prayer isn’t performance art, prayer is personal relationship. Perhaps they can help you. Here are 4 of the books that have shaped my prayer life over the years:
Brother Lawrence humbly served in the monastery kitchen. Yet, he was known for his deep spirituality. When some of the other brothers asked him about it, he told them about his simple practice of treating every moment as a part of a conversation with God. This book taught me that nothing escapes God’s notice or attention. God takes interest in the most ordinary parts of our lives. Folding the laundry and doing the dishes become spiritual exercises. Though Lawrence lived in the late 17th century, his wisdom still carries forward today.
Richard Pratt wrote this little book to help the “frozen chosen” Presbyterians learn how the Bible teaches about the experience of prayer. This is a great book for people who have grown up in traditional churches where prayer is mostly “every head bowed, every eye closed.” Pratt searches the scriptures to show how the Bible calls us to consider prayer as a conversation with a living Person, not an abstract idea. He explores how to personalize prayer using elements such as body posture, the names of God, and the attributes of God.
Stanley Jaki spent 35 years lecturing on the philosophy of science at such places as Princeton, Stanford, Oxford, Yale, and Seton Hall. He wrote 25 books exploring the relationship of Christianity and science. Then in 2001, he turned his talents to explaining the prayer practices that had sustained him. During his many years of academic work, Jaki maintained a practice of praying through all 150 psalms every 2 weeks. This volume contains his reflections on these psalms, and directions on how we can use the psalms to enrich our own prayer lives. From Jaki, I learned that when we have no words to voice our prayers, we can find the words in the Psalms.
Henri Nouwen wrote dozens of small, easily readable works about the spiritual life. This book combines photography with reflective readings to invite us in to a slower, quieter pace where we can experience the presence of God and be transformed by Him. Nouwen compiled this work as a project with theological students who wanted to learn from him the practice of prayer. From Nouwen I learned that prayer is a slow thing that grows within us patience, perseverance, and peace.
Soli Deo Gloria
Note: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a modest commission. I only commend books that I have read and believe will add value to your life. Using these links is an easy way to help support Horizons of the Possible.