Learning to pray…
We often learn to pray by listening to others. Almost unknowingly, we pick-up words and almost unknowingly, we pick-up words and add them to our prayer vocabulary. Perhaps, we have read a book, heard a sermon or participated in a special teaching on prayer. No doubt, these and many other experiences of being exposed to prayer have shaped much of our prayer.
If we are not careful, we may develop a pattern of praying where we attempt to conjure some sort of spiritual experience that if we pray long enough or vigorously enough, then we will obtain some sort of special “feeling” as we pray. In such cases, our evaluation of our prayer times may be based on getting that “good” feeling. So many of us get discouraged from praying because there are many times when we feel nothing at all.
The best way to learn to pray is to read the Bible. It is there we learn to think in a manner consistent with the will of God. It is there, through consistent reading, the Spirit subtlety transforms our minds. It is here, our prayers become transformed from self-willed passions to God focused desires.
Luke records in Acts 2:42, “…they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
What were the prayers? F.F. Bruce in his commentary on the book of Acts indicates “the prayers” in the 2:42 passage refer to common body of prayers (liturgy) taken from synagogue worship and made significant by the Christ event.
As Anglicans, we have an ancient, but effective tool to help us pray. A compilation of scripturally based prayers and songs that have been passed down through the ages. As mentioned by Dr. Bruce above, many of them were patterned after a Jewish temple and a synagogue style of worship. They were then made Christ-centered after the resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Spirit.
How cool is it to think that many of our prayers in The Book of Common Prayer had their origins in the seminal church from the book of Acts! While the Apostles prayed spontaneously, they also prayed liturgically according to a collection of prayers that were available to them in their day!
Let us avail ourselves, especially when we are struggling to pray, to the prayers available to us in our prayer book. Click here for a link to an online version of The Book of Common Prayer. Let us root ourselves in the ancient prayers of the past, so we can find shelter in our present circumstances and look towards a hopeful future.