What comes to mind when you think of prayer?...... Do you see scheduled times of the day, lists, or perhaps you see an activity like falling on your knees? Do you see the person of Jesus, eager to talk with you?
Be honest with yourself as you consider these questions. Most of us know the "right answers," yet many of us walk away from this subject either discouraged because we think that we could be doing, or maybe feeling really good because we are doing all our scheduled times and engaged most of the time.
I think that we have over complicated the subject of prayer. Henri Nouwen, a respected author in the contemplative life, reflected on Paul's exhortation to pray without ceasing. He points out that the initial language of this verse gives this impression of "resting in His Presence." This idea totally impacted my approach to a life of prayer. We often think that the goal is to be consciously focused on God non stop. This sounds great, but is realistically impossible. Rather this language is simply an awareness of Immanuel "God with us."
This makes me think of my closest friendships. For me there is a comfort in having someone around, especially someone I enjoy. We have many moments of very focused intentional time, but if that was all we did, I would be exhausted. There is a lot of time that I spend with people close to me while doing different activities. I will be working on one thing while they are doing something else. We don't have to strive for a connection in our friendship, we simply find enjoyment in being together.
Prayer is a relationship with a real person who wants friendship. Jesus wants to talk with us, He wants to laugh at youtube videos with us, to cry with us watching the lion king, and to do the most mundane tasks with us. The vision of prayer is simply a continual awareness of Immanuel (God with us).
Schedules and lists are very helpful. There truly is a necessity of rhythms of focused time with God; just as it is necessary to regularly have intentional conversations with friends, in order to stay engaged in each other's lives.
I want to encourage you not to grade your prayer life. The Lord does not have a checklist with you. He already enjoys you and calls you friend. Know that, like a friend, He really does enjoy hearing from you and about you. He is always present and experiencing life with us; desiring us to be present and experiencing Him.
Try inviting the Holy Spirit to show you what friendship looks like.
I would love to hear any thoughts you have on what it looks like to walk in friendship with God. firstname.lastname@example.org