In Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov Father Zossima offers this counsel on prayer: Young man, be not forgetful of prayer.
Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere,
there will be new feeling and new meaning in it
which will give you fresh courage,
and you will understand that prayer is an education.
Here are some takeaways from this quote for me.
• To pray is to learn praying. We learn more about prayer by actually praying than by reading about prayer.
• To pray is to learn about God. An intimate education in the being of God is gained in a life of praying. We learn things about God by praying that we cannot learn by reading about God.
• To pray is to grow in discernment regarding the ways of God. Praying teaches us the distinction between deciding and discerning.
• To pray is to learn to hear the shepherding voice of God. In a life of praying we learn discipleship.
• To pray is to gain and feel the heart of God. To pray is to grieve and rejoice with God. Praying educates us in sorrow and joy.
• To pray is to learn trust in God. To pray is to trust. I cannot authentically pray without trust-jumping into the arms of God.
• To pray is to gain an education in obedience. Where there is disobedience, the prayer life screeches to a grinding halt. In the obedience that emerges from the act of praying trust grows, hence prayer grows and flourishes.
• The praying person graduates with a PhD in patience.
(From my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.)