Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Beginner's Guide to Prayer

I picked up this book early in the summer from our church library, looking for help in restructuring my habits in the midst of all the cerebral examinations of theology we've been doing (see Brooks' long posts). Despite being a Christian all my life, I am still a beginner when it comes to any kind of habit of prayer. Fr. Keiser of course writes from an Orthodox perspective, but I think much of his approach would be helpful to all Christians trying to establish a solid prayer life.

The reasons he gives for doing so are far from legalistic:

"Public worship and personal prayer are the twin support beams of the spiritual life for any believer. All our growing will take place within the framework they provide" (6).

"Why bother with the effort of a disciplined prayer life at all?...We pray as a response to love, and we pray in order to love" (8).

He encourages a mixture of written and spontaneous prayers, starting out with written:
"Nothing can color our image of God like the words that we use to communicate with Him....Using written prayers that have been tested against the teaching of the Church can help us keep to sound doctrine so that we do not end up worshiping ourselves" (27).

I appreciate written prayers, finding that they often say what I wanted to say without having fully realized how to express it. They also take away the excuse that I am feeling too uncreative and unexpressive to pray on any given occasion.

Fr. Keiser's advice about forming a personal rule of prayer is drawn from Scripture and the church fathers, with a healthy dose of practicality for the busy and easily-distracted realities of our lives and a common-sensical balance between emotions and discipline.

Written, spontaneous, and non-verbal prayer all contribute to the same end. The whole point, as with all the spiritual disciplines, is to grow in communion and likeness with God, which is genuine wholeness and the deepest authenticity.

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