The practice of prayer
by Dawn Brown
I remember my music teacher at school used to try to encourage me to practice. He would tell me ‘The difference between a good musician and an excellent musician, is that a good musician practices until they get it right, an excellent musician practices until they don’t get it wrong.’
I would turn up for my lesson, once a week, and assure my teacher that I had practiced the French Horn for twenty minutes a day. This was not entirely true. In fact, it was very untrue. And in my defence, not only was it was very uncool for a twelve-year-old girl to carry a French Horn backwards and forwards to school every day, but it was embarrassing to practice such a loud instrument for half the street to hear!
Suffice to say, my career as a professional French Horn player never took off. Practice was my downfall! Practice is a choice; practice takes time; practice costs. Those who persevere with practice of anything, will over time, develop a love and understanding and a second nature for that to which they are committed.
And so it is with our faith. There are disciplines (or practices) which develop our love and understanding and a second nature for our faith. The practices may be simple, like prayer, but the choice to practice prayer day by day is costly.
I remember asking Jesus into my life when I was eleven years old, and since then I have practiced prayer! I have practiced in many different ways, at different times, and with different people. I remember people that I have prayed with in triplets, or as prayer partners, or in small house groups.
I have kept a prayer journal, writing prayers out to God like letters day by day. I have used Bible reading notes, like ‘Every Day with Jesus’ (which in fairness, like my French Horn practice, was more like ‘Every Other Day with Jesus’!) And more recently I have used Apps like ‘Lectio 365’ and ‘Pray as You Go’.
Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take a choice to practice prayer. If prayer works best for you when it’s in your diary as a meeting with someone else, then try to find a prayer partner. If prayer works best for you when you are ironing, or walking, then try to be intentional about praying when you are active in that way. If prayer works best for you when you write, or sing, or drive, then use those times to turn to God. Talk to Him and listen to Him.
Graham and I try to sit each morning together and use the liturgy from Northumbria Community Celtic Daily Prayer. The words that we say every day are the same. They have become a comfort and strength on difficult days; they give me words to say when my own words seem useless. The liturgy uses lots of Scripture and offers a ‘ground-zero’ for me to come back to when I feel distant from God.
It doesn’t really matter how we pray; God simply loves us to meet Him, be in communication with Him, turn our attention to Him. What a privilege and a joy to know our God meets us in prayer. Let’s choose to practice!
Psalm 116:2 (NLT)
2 Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!