Posted by: Dan | January 8, 2006

Prayer

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
~ Paul, Ro 8.26-27

“The Spirit is then the one who conforms the Messiah's people to his suffering and glory, so that the Jewish expectation of the coming Messiah is fulfilled not just in the Messiah himself, but, extraordinarily, in his people as well… And, since the Spirit is given to us in the present as a down payment, we are charged already with implementing that ultimate accomplishment… This happens, at its core, through the presence of the Spirit in the groaning of prayer. The two little verses [in Romans 8] on prayer are not intended at this point as a simply aside to encourage devotion. They are the very heart of Paul's reworked, and inaugurated, eschatology.”
~ N.T. Wright, Paul in Fresh Perspective

Approximately two years ago I spent two weeks in Paris that revolutionised my prayer life. In the Catholic cathedrals I was struck by the reverence of genuflection — and I was also struck by the intimacy I experienced while there. And so, when I returned to Canada, I began to pray daily in a kneeling posture. I have been amazed by how much this practice has transformed my life. Since I began, I have come to realise that the single greatest impact upon my mood, my outlook, my patience, etc., is whether or not I am praying consistently. The practice of this discipline has also completely transformed my experience of prayer. Before my prayers seemed to be (and probably were) a hit-and-miss time with God. Sometimes I felt that God showed up, sometimes I felt like he did not (sometimes I felt like I showed up, sometimes I wasn't there at all). However, I now enter into prayer with complete confidence that I will encounter God. It is interesting because my prayers have become increasingly traditional and liturgical (I pray in the same position, I pray the same prayers daily [the Lord's Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, and I work through the Beatitudes and the Fruit of the Spirit]) while simultaneously becoming increasingly experiential.

In his book, In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen argues that the first temptation Jesus faced (turning stones into bread) was a temptation to be relevant. He argues that the proper response to this temptation is contemplative prayer. The Church, he says, must move from pragmatic relevance to contemplative prayer, if she is to be salt and light. The funny thing is that I don't think I every really believed Nouwen, because I never really used to pray. Now, after a few years of prayer, I think I'm finally starting to get it.

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