I’m not one of those who’d say that I find prayer particularly difficult. God was very real to me from the beginning of my Christian faith and it always felt natural to develop a relationship through prayer. I remember in those months of searching before becoming Christian of uttering some very real prayers and having a very real sense of being drawn towards God. Getting saved, getting filled with Holy Spirit, prayer just clicked.
All until the last 3 years in particular. A combination of things made prayer really difficult all of a sudden. Firstly, an overwhelming sense of burden for the spiritual heartbeat of the Salvation Army turned prayer into pain. Secondly, spending two years in close proximity to some difficult stuff, difficult lives and situations in Torry started to make my normal evangelical-charismatic prayer life stale and almost inneffectual, or so it felt. I still felt it able to ‘pray continually’ in the sense of just having that ongoing awareness of God’s presence and guidance, but specific times of prayer were so difficult….how do I express my heart? I’ve always been thankful for the gift of tongues and that continued to be useful but against a back ground of some big inner challenges, I felt a need to go deeper than before.
That influence came from a very surprising place for me. Someone introduced me to a siddur. A siddur is a Jewish prayer book. It has standard prayers for day, night, midday etc…I especially loved praying the Amidah and the Shema (google them!) I found them so touching and that they focussed my attendtion on God, his people (all his people, not just Israel), and it was also like each day I was building in some really solid rhythms into my life. The more I build these shaped prayers into my life, the more I just found that place of stability again, a strengthening of the foundations.
I then branched out to use the Missio Dei Breviary and the Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community. I now use a combination of all these things for various periods of time. There is a new online and book resource written by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove called ‘Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals’ which is equally inspiring. Urban Expression, a urban church planting movement here in the UK, also have a daily liturgy with some fantastic stuff in it.
So, from being someone who had always though that written prayers were something that only spiritually dead people do, I found instead that using some of these resources became a helpful springboard to help maintain an active prayer life whether I felt like it or not! Instead of prayer becoming spasmodic, dependent on mood and feelings, there was now a regular rhythm. I recommend that people explore this stuff. It may just be the source of regular feeding and inspiration you need to ground your relationship with God.