We have a very special podcast for you today. In honour or April Fools’ Day, we present the Hope Canteen Blooper Reel. This special retrospective highlights our errors, outtakes, and interruptions from the past year, with a special guest appearance by our small but very loud dog.
In the midst of it all, we wish you a blessed Holy Week as well.
Prayer occupies a central place in our lives as followers of Jesus. Prayer assumes that God is not distant and impenetrable, but that we can approach God, and that God listens and is somehow reachable in our prayer. Our liturgical tradition describes just one of many ways to express prayer to God.
If we can communicate with God, we can also listen to God. People have developed various ways of prayerfully listening to God through the Bible, through silence, by meditating with words or images or music, and in community. In all of these, we presume that prayer helps us to relate closely to God, and that God is in fact relatable. This is why we have chosen “How do I pray best?” as the second in our series of six questions every Christian needs to ask.
Called to Worship God
Two thousand years of followers of Jesus–and millennia of people walking with God before then–have practiced ways to call themselves and each other to the worship of God. We do not pray alone. We can rely on their work and wisdom as we both grow in prayer and deal with all those things that can make us forget God: boredom, wealth and ease, distractions, hardships, fears, attractive things, lies, and the many wanderings of our own hearts.
Deuteronomy 8 records Moses teaching God’s people as they are preparing to enter the Promised Land, reminding them about what is most important. Over and over, he says, Remember the Lord your God. Donot forget God. Remember how God has led you. If our relationship with God defines who we are, prayer helps us remember. How do you personally remember God and walk with God each day? How do you turn toward God who calls you into relationship? What are the ways you hear yourself called back? How do you hold the anchor of your life?
How Do You Pray?
We are complicated beings, and so people pray in different ways. And people pray differently in different seasons of their lives. Is serving others your prayer? Do you meet God walking in the woods? Gazing at the sacred image of an icon? Memorizing scripture? Wrestling through questions of faith? Sitting in the sanctuary? Pouring your heart out with a small group? Gathering with your church family? Moving your body? Do you give your prayer voice in music or art? Do you meet God in silence? In the suffering? What are the touchpoints of your life?
Perhaps start by asking if you have gifts and interests that you can turn toward your relationship with God. Are there ways of prayer toward which God seems to be nudging you at this time? Then remember that God is already here, and sometimes we just need ways to be reminded.
The only way each of us can truly discover how we love to meet God is by taking the journey of prayer, learning from others, growing in love. Because that’s the heart of it. Every model and method of prayer has the same aim: to give ear and expression to our relationship with God, centering our lives on Christ who seeks us.
This is based on a talk from our 2021 Lenten learning series, Re-boot Your Spiritual Life. You can watch the full version here:
We have been talking about prayer a lot here on the Hope Canteen: how it’s central to a life of faith and is the foundation of a relationship with God. If you have spent much time in the church, you have probably talked about, learned, and practiced prayer for many years.
So why are we still talking about prayer? Why do we keep circling back to the same foundations? Why, yet again, are we looking at these basic ideas?
As my children have made their way through school, I have noticed an interesting dynamic in their social studies curriculum. Over the years, they return to study the same concepts. A particular country might come up three or four times over the course of their schooling. At first, it seems like it’s limiting their education; why not introduce them to more places so that they can gain a broader view of the world? Of course, there is more involved.
This is a deliberate choice on the part of their educators. They are prioritizing knowing a few places deeply over knowing many different things. They have decided that my children will ultimately receive a better education by returning to the same area of study. And through getting to know those few places deeply, they will learn more about how human cultures and institutions work.
Likewise, we need to keep coming back to prayer because it is so central and so important. The difference is that we return to it with more mature, experienced eyes. Each time, we are ready for new insights, precisely because we have been here before and we are ready to be led deeper into the heart of God. We circle back, because each time, we grow more.
Humans Are Easily Distracted
The second reason we’re still talking about prayer is that we are so easily pulled away. The “worries of this life” (see Matthew 13:22) get in the way. Our minds and attention wander. Our priorities get thrown off course. Many things compete for our focus and distract us. We need to remember and return to prayer, and to get our priorities–once again–right. We need to be reminded and re-called often.
A Living Word
Finally, we return to prayer because we follow a living God. Prayer sets us in conversation and relationship with the Creator. The Holy Spirit is always speaking and moving, and how we listen changes over time. Newness doesn’t come from a new expression of prayer, but from the way that it calls us to God, who is always doing something new.
Every time we talk about prayer, think of it as a call to explore it more deeply, to take an honest look at your heart, and to listen for how God is speaking to you today.