A while back, I taught on the theme of “Prayer Ruts I’ve Found Myself In.” I wonder if any of these sound familiar to you.
First, I sometimes get stuck seeing prayer as more monologue than dialogue. I forget that prayer is a relationship, and that relationships are conversational. I learn to allow space when I pray for silence and listening. I don’t fill the air with and endless barrage of words, making the mistake of thinking that more words equals better prayer. I don’t reduce prayer to reciting my laundry list of wants and needs. (And some of the most mature pray-ers I know don’t use many words).
Second, in subtle ways, my prayer becomes more me-focused than God-focused. Maybe this sounds strange to you. God-focused prayer is rich in praise, adoration and thanksgiving. These are ways we let the goodness and glory of God capture our attention and fill our horizon. Then, from this rich awareness of God-with-us, we feel encouraged to make our concerns, our hopes, our feelings, our needs be known to Him. Prayer also becomes me-focused when I stop praying when it doesn’t “feel good” anymore.
Third, and ironically, I’ve found myself stuck when I think of prayer as only spontaneous and rarely repetitive. My evangelical background taught me to suspect written prayers that some in other traditions used. I was warned of the great danger of meaningless repetition. But I never remember being warned of meaningless spontaneity (which I’ve prayed a lot of) or meaningful repetition. Spontaneity sometimes becomes a kind of religious “verbal diarrhea” (which just sounds gross).
Do any of these ruts sounds familiar in your experience? Do you have any to add to the list? Please take a moment and comment below.
Here are a couple of ideas for using meaningful repetition in your prayer time. I hope you find refreshment as you seek to grow in your prayer life.
I’ve come to deeply treasure the richness of praying the psalms, which over time obviously becomes repetitive since there are only 150 of them! Praying through the Psalms can be a wonderful way to increase your prayer vocabulary. It can also help express deep emotions and heartfelt praise to God, when you don't seem to have your own words.
I also appreciate the “prayer books” of other Christian traditions. If you would like to explore one of the prayer book traditions as a means of enriching your life of prayer, here are a few that I’ve used: