Generally speaking, there is nothing instant in the Christian life. Most of what you learn about your relationship with God comes over time. There may be “Ah-ha” moments that surprise and delight you. Yet, there follows the need to appropriate and practice a different set of activities until real change happens. You would like it to be different perhaps. Yet, there is a depth and satisfaction that only comes with learning something over a longer period of time. This is true of prayer as well.
We learn from the prayer life of Jesus, and what he taught his disciples, that:
Prayer is best learned over time.
Gift & Habit
Prayer isn’t found beautifully displayed in a welcome basket ready to be chosen by the new Christian. You don’t simply pick it up, take it home, display it on the mantel and look at it on occasion. Prayer is more like a gift from God that you unwrap. Inside, you find a high-quality sweatshirt made to last forever.
But, you must put it on to experience it’s warmth and comfort. It becomes your favorite garment as you wear it year after year. You discover over time that the thread adjusts to the temperatures so that it is just as comfortable in the summer as the winter. Prayer becomes your “habit.”
Neither is prayer automatic or innate to living the Christian life. The desire to be in communion with God comes with faith. There is within your heart a yearning to be with the Trinity. Yet, time is needed to learn how this is done. The gift of longing is to be developed over time until you are living out the longing in reality. The longing becomes real. Don’t assume you know how to pray just because you have made a faith commitment to Christ. Nourish the seed of prayer that is within. Develop your prayer life more fully.
Prayer is slowly learned in struggle, failure, effort, and acquisition along your Christian journey. It’s more like becoming a professional baseball player who learns to hit 95 mph fastballs. A boy starts out hitting off a tee at age 5, plays little league and learns to hit 50-60 mph pitches. Then in college he begins to battle 70-80 mph fastballs. If he progresses, he’ll be able to deal with changeups of that velocity and fastballs close to 95 mph.
It’s a long and intentional journey. He doesn’t wake up one morning, at age 25, and decide, I’m going to play pro ball and go out and do it.
Like hitting a fastball, prayer cannot be mastered. There will be more misses than hits. Prayer is a mystery filled with adventure, exploration, surprises, failures, commitment, joys, and challenges. All the more reason to do it.
From Jesus to Apostles to You
The first followers of Jesus learned prayer by watching Jesus, listening to his teachings, and putting them into practice. For example, the Apostle Peter lived a liturgical prayer life, as Jesus taught, going to the Temple to pray at a certain (9th) hour (Acts 3.1) and to a roof top at the sixth hour (Acts 10.9). He prayed for Dorcas’ healing (Acts 9.36-41) and was the recipient of faithful prayers (Acts 12.6-17). Later, he was able to give instructions out of his own experience – “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Peter 4.7).
Just keep praying. If you haven’t started, begin with the prayer Jesus gave his disciples (see this post). Learn from Jesus for the rest of your life.
Never walk around naked.
What do you need to do now to learn to pray over time? Share some of your prayer journey below.