Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We are told that prayer is the life blood of Christian living! It should be at the center of all our day. The Scriptures tell us to pray without ceasing! Yet while we all know that we should pray, how often do we find that it is the last thing we do? Do we find that in our busy schedules, that regular morning and evening prayer are crowded out with the constant distractions, which tug at our minds and hearts? Our Lord invites us, even commands us, to join with our parish community in the weekly offering of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to which our heavenly Father is due from us. When we look deeply in our hearts, we find that prayer is one of the hardest things to do. Why is this?
I have been reading a new book, Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina, by Tim Gray. He points to at least part of the answer to the above problem in prayer. Consider for a moment how we connect with people. Have you ever been to a party or gathering and felt like you did not know anyone at the party? When we do not know people, it is hard to have meaningful conversations or feel like we connect with them. But if we find that we have something in common with another person, even someone who is a relative stranger, then a bond begins to form, which opens a possible relationship with that person. The same is true for God. But how do we come to know God in a way, which transforms our prayer life from a one-way monologue to a meaningful, life-giving dialogue with our heavenly Father?
To begin to answer the question about knowing God, the saints throughout the ages have pointed us to the Holy Scriptures. First, we need to see the Scriptures as the Word of God to us and not just to people, who lived long ago, like Moses and Peter. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures today about our present living as the Spirit has spoken to the saints in every age. It is through the Scriptures, that we hear God speaking to us in our present situation in living. To try to pray without the Holy Scriptures often turns into a kind of boring monologue. We lose interest, when we do not have any answers. When we learn to listen to God through the regular reading of the Holy Scriptures, then our prayer life becomes different, because we open a second dimension to our prayers, that of listening to God as well as speaking at God. We find that a life-giving bond forms between us and God, because we begin to have something meaningful in common with God through our Lord Jesus!
I will have more to say about how we go about reading Scripture and listening to God through the Scriptures in prayer in the future. For the present, I suggest that you begin a little experiment. Under the "Links" tab on the Meade Website, open the link to "Lectionary Page" and look up the Gospel reading for the next Sunday. Then ask our Lord Jesus to help you listen as you read the Gospel each day during the week before going to worship on Sunday. I have a good friend, who calls this the "Jesus Challenge."