Monday, July 07, 2014

When Praying Becomes Unceasing (Prayer Summer 2014)

Sunset on Glen Lake, Michigan
Unceasing praying is the fruit of intimate relationship. As relationship deepens conversation deepens. Richard Foster describes this as a 4-stage growth process. (See Foster, Prayer, pp. 125-126.) I'm conflating Fosters second and third steps because I find them too similar. 

Stage 1 - Outward discipline.

I choose to connect with Christ, in the act of praying.

For me this happened in 1977. I made a choice to pray a half hour a day. I did not do this to earn God's love. I chose this because of God's love for me

1. Those who love God talk with God.

2. I love God.

3. Therefore I talk with God.

Foster writes: "This is how we gain proficiency at anything. The accomplished pianist, who today spryly runs her hands up and down the keyboard, once had to agonize over the simplest scales. The same is true for us." Foster, Prayer, p. 126. See also Dallas Willard's beautiful The Spirit of the Disciplines.)

Choose this day whom you will talk with. As for me and my house, we will talk with God.

Stage 2 - The mind descends into the heart.

I woke this morning with a song in my heart. It's a song our worship team did yesterday morning as our church family gathered. These words are looping in my soul: For Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the power, Yours is the glory, for ever and ever.

And ever and ever and...  over and over and over...

Prayer becomes "like a tune that we suddenly realize we have been humming all day long. Inward prayer bubbles forth at the oddest moments: in the midst of traffic, in the shower, in a crowded shopping mall. We begin to dream our prayer." (Ib.) 

We begin to think our prayers, in our hearts. "Our decisions become increasingly bathed in a loving rationality." This is hard to describe. It comes only to pray-ers. Foster writes:

"I do not quite have the words to explain it to you. We become, for example, more sensitive to the hurts and sufferings of others. We walk into a room and quickly know who is sad or lonely or dealing with a deep, inexpressible sorrow. In such a case we are able to slip over beside them and sit in silence, bringing comfort and understanding and healing, knowing that “deep calls to deep” (Ps. 42:7)." (Ib., 127)

For me, this comes as I practice praying. 

Stage 3 - Prayer permeates the whole personality.

Foster writes: "It becomes like our breath or our blood, which moves throughout the entire body. Prayer develops a deep rhythm inside us." (Ib., 127)

This is intimacy with Jesus, ongoingly. This is love, experientially. Praying-as-relationship becomes the air I breathe.

This is John 14-15-16 stuff, realized. The Father makes his home in us. We are one with God, unitively. (This is a relational union, not a metaphysical union of being.)

Praying becomes a life of cultivated closeness. Unceasingly.