As I introduce this series of posts on prayer, I’ve got mixed feelings. I feel excitement because for me prayer is the very center of human existence—it is breath and life, fire and spirit. But I’m nervous too. I fear that prayer too easily becomes an end in itself, as if prayer itself is what we’re after. It’s not. I’ve read book after book on prayer, gone to conferences, sought out teachers—all in the pursuit of praying better. And I’ve gotten all tied up by techniques and methods, which, while necessary to some degree, can also become hindrances to true prayer. I’ve gotten fixated from time to time on finding the right prayer technique, saying the right words, sitting in the right posture or place or for just the right amount of time.
But I’ve learned that all this can be nonsense; instead of giving me God, a fixation on prayer more often gives me a bunch of monkeys swinging through my mind, criticizing me and distracting me from what I really want from prayer—God. I get excited by the idea or practice of prayer, but then when I actually pray, my thoughts swing into action, instructing me, judging me, evaluating me, joining with various emotions that can just as easily plunge me quickly into despair under the stern gaze of my self-critic as they can raise me in pride over my sense of spiritual accomplishment.
All this is a distortion of prayer.
For more meditations on the Daily Guide/Rule of Life, click on the blog category, “Daily Guide/Rule of Life”
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