Technology simply means to make an aspect of scientific knowledge practical. Prayer is scientific---in prayer we study God according to God's own nature. Prayer isn't talk about God; it's not thoughts about God. Prayer is first-hand research into the Infinite, the Ultimate, the Source and Guide and Goal of all. It's easy to make too much of technology, but it's also easy to make too little of it. We make too much of technology, or the technique of prayer, when we get hooked on method. I've often gotten to the point where I'm rather obsessed with doing prayer just the right way. I can get more engaged with the method of prayer than with the object of prayer---God. The older teachers of prayer warn us to guard ourselves from getting hooked by technique. They'll tell you that you might master the technology of prayer, but if you do, your ego will likely get you all tangled up in feeling proud about what you've achieved and how much better at prayer you are than the person next to you (or your ego will tell you how rotten you are and unable to do what you desire to do).
But the masters have also realized that without some guide or method there are too many distractions that compete for our heart's encounter with the living God. Prayer is far more than merely asking God for things. It begins with words, proceeds through thoughts, and ends in absolute stillness before God, absorbed in rapt attentiveness before the Divine. And such experiences in prayer have real staying power in our daily lives, enriching all we do with a sense of the sacred---whether we're answering email, changing diapers, arguing a case before a journey, or walking a nature path.
To experience all this we need a guide, a method, a technology.
- You go to the gym and need a basic plan for your workout.
- You look at your income for the month and need a basic spending plan.
- And so, to ascend the holy mountain of prayer, you need a guide.
But there will come a point when the guide has served its purpose and the rest of the way you must go it alone, naked of all else but the Spirit to guide you.
For a description of my own journey into this deeper or higher form of prayer, and the Jesus Prayer as a temporary technology, see my ebook, Returning to the Center: Living Prayer in a Distracting World.
(in my next post I'll give a little more historical background to the use of this simple prayer; after that I'll expand on the prayer itself and the three basic steps of its method)