To be honest, I have found prayer very hard for most of my life. I have tried to “intellectualise” it and go searching for the perfect prayer book or liturgy. This made prayer ever more and more complicated and involved. Naively I thought that the more complex it was the more God must want to listen. It never worked as the bookshelf of prayer books will testify.
Recently I have started using the standard Prayer Book for Australian Anglicans – A Prayer Book for Australia. It has an order of Morning and Evening Prayer for every day of the week. The Psalms are divided over a longer period than older versions of the Prayer Book.
Maybe it is not about “how” we pray but “why” we pray that matters?
This morning I thought about how I feel that I am a little “aimless” at the moment. A time of waiting and I do not really enjoy waiting. And Thomas Merton’s Prayer came to mind:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.Thomas Merton
I have always been struck by the phrase “does in fact please you“. The desire for communion, for intimacy with God, for openness, does please God. And this desire sets the tone of daily life.
Prayer is not about getting somewhere but about being in the presence of God. The “how” of prayer is less important than the desire to be open in prayer – to listen and speak with God in intimacy. I like the obedience of using a Prayer Book and it is very much within my own personal tradition. But it is not the how but rather the desire to set aside time to rest.
Like Merton, I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.