I have a confession.
When I’m rushed in my morning routine, I typically cut down my morning routine. I cut out the gym, writing, and a few other things out of my routine. But if I was honest, I would say that something more vital might be placed on the dusty bookshelf as I rush my way out the door for work. I put my prayer life on pause. Alright, that sounded too nice: I choose not to pray. (Ouch, that sounds really harsh!) I mean how important can it actually be?
According to Henri Nouwen (among others!), it’s pretty vital.
In The Way of the Heart, Nouwen expands on prayer by addressing what it is not and what it is meant to be.
Prayer is not a last ditch support system
Prayer is not a weakness, a support system for weaker men and women. It is not a last resort for people at the end of their rope. Though it might be a good place to start when you hit a dead end (I think about George Bailey’s character in It’s a Wonderful Life), prayer is a basis for all relationships. As Nouwen puts it, prayer is a creative contact with the source of all life.
Prayer grounds us
How do you picture God? Is he the cosmic fly swatter, a magical magician in the sky, or a wise sage? Nouwen would suggest that if we try and fit God into our own views, into our own preconceived idea of who God is, then our prayers will become warped. If the God of our prayers is “created in our own image and adapted to our own needs and concerns” then we will indeed see it is a weakness, our last line of defense.
Think about it another way, if we come to God and create him in our mind to be something that he is not, then we will be disappointed every single time. Thinking about prayer as a last line of defense will simply lead to frustration and a Christian who might live more like an atheist than a Christ follower (since the person might believe in God, but is living as if he doesn’t exist until they hit rock bottom, see Craig Groeschel’s The Christian Athiest).
Prayer connects us
Prayer not only grounds us, but it also connects us with the author of a grander story. It grounds us in the reality of a relationship with the giver of life. Prayer is thinking and living in the presence of God. Certainly we ought to set aside time to pray, even when we have a full schedule. Martin Luther once remarked that he was going to have such a full day that he would start it off by spending the first two hours of it in prayer. Prayer is huge!
Prayer grounds us in the Kingdom of God and connects us with the mission of Jesus. In fact, Jesus himself often snuck away to pray. If the God-Man believed it was important, how much more important would it be for confessing followers of Jesus?
My challenge and encouragement is in your full days, take time to pray. Maybe you are so busy that you should heed Luther’s motto and spend the first hour or two in prayer. What say you? Care to join me?Photo credit: Leland Francisco via Compfight