Francis Bacon said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Right now I am chewing on C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. Pen in hand, I underline, pause to think, write cryptic notes in the margins, and stop to pray.
Lewis speaks of trying to pray “without words at all — if one can really achieve it.” I wonder if that relates to Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Sadly, I have tried Lawrence’s ideas only to fall flat on my face before 9AM. The clutter of my mind clogs the prominence of Christ all too quickly. My thoughts wander, I repeat words, phrases, ideas. When my prayers sound rote, I turn to Valley of Vision, the collected prayers of Puritan writers. Their precise language, sense of personal sin, and God’s offer of marvelous mercy deepen my appreciation of God’s grace. Somehow, my prayers gain more of a God-ward direction. I “grocery shop” my lists less often. I sit quietly and consider the awe and majesty due His name.
I don’t want floating prayers that arise from my ideas, imagination or emotions, but I want to engage mind and spirit supported by the relationship Christ initates with me. Why? I have lived through times of using words or acronyms that became repetition that morphed into formulas. Christians desire to develop a deepening prayer life. one that truly communes with the Lord. But how is prayer done in holiness and to the glory of God? When I ask such quesitons, I align my plight with the disciples who asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
My quest continues as I also ask the Lord to teach me to pray. While Lewis’ ideas help, the Scriptures themselves guide. As I read the Bible, sound doctrine leads me. For today, that’s enough to ground me as I talk to the Lord and take the time to listen to Him speak as the living Word speaks.