Tuesday, January 19, 2021

What I Do When I Go Out to Pray


Image result for john piippo lake erie
One of my praying places on Lake Erie

Someone who attended one of my conferences sent me this question: "When you go out to pray, what steps do you take?"

Here's what I do.

I go to a "place of least distraction," which is away from my home and office. One of these places for me is at our local state park on Lake Erie. I go there to pray even in winter, but usually stay in my car, facing the lake.

I bring three things: my Bible, my journal, and a devotional book (like a Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Dallas Willard, or Eugene Peterson book). 

I often bring a cup of coffee with me.

I find a place facing the lake. I sit. At this point I am almost always focused on God. I have done this for so many years that I am filled with expectation.

Currently I am slowly, meditatively, reading through Proverbs and the Gospel of Luke.

As I read, it is common for God to speak to me, either mediately through the Scriptures, through the creation, or immediately. When this happens, I write it down in my journal. My journal is a record of the voice and activity of God, for me.

If my mind wanders, I note where it wanders to. When it wanders it is always to a burden. Sometimes the burden is from God, and I pray about this (e.g., I feel burdened by what a friend is going through). Otherwise, following 1 Peter 5:7, I burden-cast.

When I am deburdened and detoxified (confession of any sins), hearing God happens more often. I may at that time read out of a devotional book. Usually, I get only a few pages (if that far), when I feel God is again speaking to me. At that point I write in my journal what I hear God saying.

All this is my usual experience. It does happen, occasionally, that I hear little or nothing. At other times, I cannot write my thoughts fast enough.

I feel no pressure to make something happen. I do not evaluate my time with God quantitatively. It is always productive, even if I see no immediate results.

Almost always (99%), I am refreshed, renewed, healed, directed, corrected, at peace, with great thanksgiving.

My two books are Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Leading the Presence-Driven Church 

I am now writing How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation) (Hopefully summer 2021).