When distorted, prayer becomes complicated when, in fact, it’s really quite simple. Make too much of prayer and it looses its essential simplicity and beauty. Focus on prayer and you turn prayer into something you must accomplish, something for which you need extensive training, and certain experts to show you the way. When this happens, you distort the experience of prayer into something other than everything that’s not prayer. Prayer becomes something sacred, an act tied to certain religious practices and doctrines.

When this happens, you separate prayer from your ordinary, daily life. As Sunday is different from Monday, the church sanctuary different from your office, home, or car, so prayer becomes something different from washing the dishes, designing a website, driving to work, making love, or performing surgery. I’m as influenced by this distortion as you are. Unfortunately, the confusion is part of sin’s legacy among us.

Prayer, while among the most basic of human impulses, becomes something delegated to super-believers—monks, mystics, and saints, not us sinners.

But Christ reverses all this. In Christ, prayer once again becomes what it should be—the experience of life itself.

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman

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.

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman

There’s something deep in every person that leaps at the mention of prayer. That something—a deep, unspoken desire for the Divine—may not leap for long, and it may leap weakly, for our desire for prayer is often mixed up with guilt and fear, doubt and disappointment. Nevertheless, there’s an arousal within each of us at the mention of prayer. This arousal isn’t always positive; for some there’s a counter-leaping within us—a revulsion that makes us recoil from prayer. Prayer’s a lot like sex. We’ve all got some kind of interest in it, but the mere mention of it can also arouse some stiff resistance to it because, frankly, we’ve all got one hang-up or another when it comes to sex. So, just by mentioning prayer I know I’m not only awakening desire but also shame.

(To be continued Thursday . . . )

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman

When your mind and everything in it learns how to yield to the priority of your heart, surrendered to the fullness of God within you (Ephesians 3.19), your mind will become the noble instrument God created it to be. As you learn to draw your head down into your heart where Christ dwells, your mind will become infinitely more than it can ever be alone. You’ll learn how to bury your mind inside the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2.16)—there, united with its Maker and liberated from the tyranny of its own self-management, there’s no telling what your mind can do. I say all this to help you stay clear about what you’re after.

Your goal is to move past your distracting thoughts and emotions and into an unobstructed awareness of your self before God, the simple resting of your self in Love.

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman

Your thoughts can’t give you God any more than a photograph of the sun can give you life. Ultimately, experience—direct, unmediated, and real—is what you’re after. And most of the time, you’re thoughts will only distract you from the experience you seek. They’ll manage your experience, chattering instructions at you or shaming and blaming you for this or that. Occasionally, a helpful thought may lead you to the threshold of an encounter you’ll be tempted to capture mentally—you’ll fumble for your camera and try to holler to a friend. Don’t. Your thoughts have done their job and must now retreat before the Mystery that has come to you in grace.

You must simply be still (Psalm 46.10).

Your mind will most likely be aroused and want to do what it loves to do— figure things out, record the moment, interpret it. Don’t chase the monkeys away; instead, meet them with stillness. Your stillness will help them learn to sit in peace and trust in grace.

For more meditations on the Daily Guide/Rule of Life, click on the blog category, “Daily Guide/Rule of Life”

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman