My Favourite Stories #108

I Stopped Praying 25 Years Ago (Part 1)

If you are not having a struggle, then you probably are not having a Christian experience. I will share with you today one of my spiritual struggles after having been a Christian for about 20 years. I stopped reciting prayers twenty-five years ago.  I used to get down on my knees and rattle my way through my lists, and pray for those whom I thought I should, and feel I had done my bit for the days beginning. Then it became unsatisfying, it became a chore I did not enjoy much. I had over 20 books in my library on prayer and I had read them all. Many of them are classics and what they say is true – we need to pray!  I prayed through the concept of the Lords Prayer (using each sentence as a beginning thought), I prayed through the sanctuary furniture. I used the ACTS formula –(Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), and other formulas.  I struggled to learn the art of prayer, and then one day I stopped – it was meaningless, I saw nothing for it. It didn’t change me and I had some questions about the whole thing. I suffered the anguish of the empty shrine. It was while struggling in this valley of despair that I realized God did not want the mechanics of prayer – he wanted me! I realized I had probably been closer to God before my conversion when I sat on lonely hills asking Him if He was there. A morning ritual, built on the paranoia of performance that has become meaningless, has no significance in the spiritual life.

You want to know the best secret for a good prayer life – just do it!

I guess I picked up the concept in my early Christian days that I had to get on my knees every morning and work my way through a prayer. The spiritual gymnastics went with the daily reading of the Bible, until I realized that I was part of a privileged class who could read and write in a world where most cannot. Did this then exclude most of this earth’s population, both past and present, from a relationship with God because they couldn’t read a Bible?

Please do not misunderstand me. Answers to life’s great questions come via His word. The Bible is full of answers and my life of faith is based on the answers I found in His word, but I do not have to read the Bible to have a life of faith and my salvation is not dependent on whether I have a daily Bible reading or not – this can become salvation by works. Abraham had no Bible, but what was he doing under the Oak Tree at Mamre? The heroes of the Bible did not have Bibles under their arms or on their shelves at home as they staggered from one daunting crisis to another, but they were men and women of faith.

I realized the Bible laid down no formula for how I relate to God, but rather I found a compendium of Godly people who had related to God in very different ways. They became companions on my journey.  I began talking to God, as a friend would, not on my knees so much as in every part of my life. It was more casual. It was more real, and it was more satisfying. I know pray before I even get out of bed in the morning. If I wake in the night I pray. I pray as I go to sleep.

A relationship that is a friendship with God seems illusive to most because God cannot be grasped by the mind. Otherwise, he would cease to be God. If God were easy to be found, then it would not be God that we had found. And so, the hunger of my heart for the hills was only part of the hunger of my heart for the infinite. The instinct of the far horizon was indelibly engraved in my very nature.  If the distance enhances the view of a mountain, then my times of solitude intensified the spectacle of eternity and His far beaming blaze of majesty. I once again fell in love with God and His Son who was my Salvation. I began to treasure the moments of closeness when His Spirit drew near.

It is the quiet moments that bring us close to God. These quiet moments can happen lying in bed with your arms behind your head, walking the streets, working in the garden, reading a book, sitting under a tree doing nothing or on a high hill. These became my deeply spiritual times. I found these times were better when I took nothing with me except the longing in my heart to penetrate the opening of infinity. Here, alone, the chills of my life melt from within my spirit as my soul is warmed before the blazing fire of His immensity. I love the winter months when I can just sit and stare at the fire while meditating.

And what about you? These are the lessons of spirituality. When you sit at your computer and pause for an age of spiritual reflection you are alone with Him. While the builder pauses on his rooftop, sits on the apex and takes a moment for his God and his soul he is tapping the source of all creation. While the housewife with hands in the sink takes her sorrows to God or the student sitting in classes’ moves from the finite to the infinite beyond the window, there your spirit can soar to the realms of glory where He sits enthroned. More on Prayer tomorrow.


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