Thursday, January 17, 2013

As Usual, Finding Much Time to Pray

Wilberforce, Ohio (just down the hill from Payne Theological Seminary)

This is Week 1 of 6 weeks of prayer for the Spiritual Formation students in my Payne Theological Seminary class. We're all praying, minimally, one hour a day, 5 days a week. Henri Nouwen writes of the importance of what we are engaged in.

"Prayer is not merely a condition for compassionate leadership: it is its essence. As long as we keep speaking about prayer as a way to restore ourselves from spiritual fatigue, or worse, to recharge our batteries, we have reduced prayer to a method and compassion to a commodity." (Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 79)

Increasingly, I am less interested in hearing from a person who does not have time for praying. Because, as Nouwen writes, "prayer is the essence of the spiritual life without which all ministry loses its meaning." (Ib.)

Why do I focus on prayer so much? The answer is simple: because Jesus did. Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. (Luke 22:39) "As usual," Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray. Jesus spent regular unhurried time with God. Jesus hung out with the Father.

The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky said that “the second half of a person's life is made up of nothing but the habits he or she have acquired during the first half.” "As usual," many Christians do not have time to pray today. "As usual," some of us do, because our Lord did, and we're following after him.