Prayer is one thing followers of Jesus want to be good at. It is one of the key activities that drives our relationship with God. The problem is that while we want to be good at it, we feel as though we are bad at it. How do we change this?
In his book, The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith uses the example of Peyton Manning. This gridiron quarterback practiced regularly with waterlogged footballs so he would be prepared in case he played in rain. The moment came in the Superbowl. While the opposing quarterback fumbled the ball repeatedly, Manning committed few mistakes. Is this a lesson for us? Could practicing praying be a way that we could finally be good at it?
You can develop a practice of prayer. Practicing prayer isn’t like football. In football you go away and train and prepare for the game. Prayer isn’t like this. You don’t go away and train, you’re either praying or you’re not. The sports analogy doesn’t work.
What is does it mean to Practice Prayer?
They say ‘practice makes perfect’. But it isn’t true, especially when it comes to prayer. On the subject of prayer Thomas Merton commented “We do not want to be beginners, but let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our lives.” His point is simple, prayer is not something that can be mastered.
Practicing prayer is not about skill acquisition. If you follow my blog you’ll have read this before, prayer is less about what we say and more about our relationship with God. It is our conscious decision to pursue God. Practicing prayer isn’t something done in order to improve how you pray but improve your relationship with God.
To practice prayer is to be intentional about praying regularly. Some people have done this first thing in the morning. Others just before bedtime. Others stop and pray at set times throughout the day. The point isn’t when they pray but that they pray regularly. This is what it looks like to practice prayer.
Why Practice Prayer?
Author Jeff Goins writes in his book The Art of Work, “When passion goes away, it’s the practice that sustains us.” Although he is writing about vocation, Goins’ point is also applicable to prayer. I’ve been following Jesus long enough to know that sometimes the passion fades. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about backsliding, but just the reality that there are times when it seems like God is distant. There are times when I don’t really focus on God the way I should.
The practice of prayer is so important during these moments. By keeping it regular it helps turn our attention back to Jesus. It sustains us when the going is hard. And it enriches our relationship with God through barren seasons. After all, practicing prayer isn’t about gaining skills but pursuing God.