C.S. Lewis once wrote a piece called “Festooning ready made prayers.” He understood the temptation of free improvisation and the poverty of the unfettered individualism it springs from. He urged believers to follow more closely those prayers that are good representatives of the faith, tested by age.
So, to turn from whatever poverty in prayer leaves you hungry for God, consider:
- Rethinking your stance toward what is rote.
- Re-evaluating history and the gifts of the tradition (the Bible and historic practices).
- Becoming suspicious of the mind’s desire to always be in control, always thinking, always demanding to know and understand (which is a form of control).
- Suspend rational thought for awhile. Has it really gotten you where you want to be in terms of intimacy with God?
- Take the Holy Name of Jesus upon your lips and let it move down into your heart. Rest in the Name. Let your meditation (rote repetition) on the Name, keep you coming back to the one thought that really matters: the Name of Jesus.
- When your thoughts assail you (like: “This is dumb; it’s just rote repetition”), come back to the Name and interrogate the thought: “Why should I believe you?”. Dwell instead in the presence of God.
- Set apart some sacred time in a quite place. Let your body settle into stillness.
- Sit of lie still while remaining alert.
- Watch your thoughts but don’t follow them or judge them good or bad, pleasurable or frustrating.
- Return over and over to the Name.
This may not seem like prayer because we often think prayer is more like chattering at God. But silence is the true language of God (click on 1 Kings 19.11-12; Psalm 4.4; Isaiah 50.4; Habakkuk 2.20; Mark 9.7). When you're least conscious of your own thoughts about God, yourself, and the world---when you're naked of illusion, when there's no false self you have to feed, when you're dead to all but love---you are nearest to God, and nearest your true self made in God's image.