I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my “prayer life” and probably like most people experiencing a mixture of frustration, guilt, and desire. I am frustrated that my prayer life isn’t more meaningful, guilty that it isn’t more disciplined, and I desire a deeper relationship with God through my prayers. Whilst thinking about all of this and living with these emotions I came across a quote that gave me a completely new perspective. It was from that great spiritual mentor, Dallas Willard, here is what he says,
Dallas nailed me. My feelings of frustration and guilt about prayer were coming from thinking about prayer in the wrong way. I had thought of prayer as something to be added to my life, rather than integrated into my life. I had thought about prayer as an activity to be added to my life, so I have to take the dog out, I have to prepare a sermon, I have to set aside a time for prayer. Now Dallas is not suggesting that you don’t have a specific time for prayer but rather that you naturally integrate prayer into all that you do and if you do that those longer times of prayer will become more natural and meaningful.
A younger spiritual mentor, Skye Jethani, suggests we think about the difference between having a prayer life and having a praying life as like the difference between hand bells and sleigh bells. Here is how he explains it.
“Someone once told me that modern people see life as a set of handbells. Each activity is a separate bell to be rung independently from the others. In truth, life is never that compartmentalized. We are more like a string of sleigh bells that are interconnected. Ringing one bell will automatically affect all of the others.”
Here is what I am trying to do, my wee experiment in prayer, if you like. As I start each activity in my day, I am saying short prayers that the Lord will guide me and be with me. As I meet people, I am praying that the Lord will be with us and give me sensitivity and wisdom etc. As I walk the dog, I thank the Lord for what I see in creation and for the chance to relax. You get the idea.
Maybe if you are feeling frustrated about your prayer life, you could join my wee experiment in developing a praying life?