It’s Been an Honor to Join You in Prayer

2018 Lenten Prayer Report

From February 18 – April 7, 2018 I had the honor to pray for almost 200 people every day. Names were given to me by readers of The UnCommon Journey and friends who receive the Homestead House Ministries newsletter.  

Most of the names were from people I know personally. A few I’ve never met.

Names came from close friends and long-time acquaintances as well as people we’ve only recently met. 

Names were submitted from folks living in: California, Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Michigan, and even London, Ontario Canada and London of the UK. 

Sometimes I knew the need or situation that prompted the request. Often I did not. 

Some needs were family situations like estranged or “wayward” children. Some requests focused on personal or family decisions. A few were personal struggles – spiritual and/or physical. 

I kept these needs in mind as I brought these names to God. The names were listed on a 81/2 x 11 sheet of paper because I have such a poor memory and wanted to make sure every name was mentioned every day. Of course, when I say name I mean person. (I have the gift of forgetting (no joke) which makes the list necessary. I need to write about this special gift sometime.) 

Along with asking God’s mercy on every person, I prayed this prayer for every person: 

O God, our Heavenly Father, who lovest mankind and art most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon thy servants (here I would mention your names) for whom I humbly pray thee, and commend to thy gracious care and protection. Be thou, O God, their guide and guardian in all their endeavors, lead them in the path of thy truth and draw them nearer to thee, that they may lead a godly and righteous life in they love and fear; doing thy will in in all things. Give them grace that they may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout and charitable. Defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption of this life; and direct them in the way of salvation, through the merits of the Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The prayer might not mention the specific need of the person, yet it focuses on the essentials like walking in truth, living a godly and righteous life; the need for grace, protection from evil, to resist temptation, and live the way of salvation. These are “big picture” items that, if realized, would meet the more specific need. 

For 50 days, I prayed like this for every person. That’s not a statement of pride or piety. It’s a statement of commitment and tenacity. I told you that I’d pray for the people you mentioned to me and I was able to keep my word. 

In actuality, I was simply joining with the Trinity and the saints gone before us who pray for these people at all times.

Also, I was joining you as you prayed.

I have no special magic formula that produces answers. God’s work in each of these lives is ongoing. I was trying to participate in that work. 

Thank you to all who submitted names. I found an ascetic pleasure and reverent tenderheartedness by joining you in your prayers.

Let’s do this together again during Lent of 2019. 

If you’d like to share anything from this experience, please do so below. 

Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen! Thanks be to God for all things! 

Dr. K 

How to Have A Fuller, Flourishing Relationship with God

It Can't Get Much Simpler Than This

Living more fully into your life with Christ takes place by taking small steps. If you sense that God is inviting you to a better, closer relationship, how can you effectively answer the invitation? You cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results. That’s a description of insanity, right? If you need to know God better (who doesn’t?), then new habits must be implemented. 

Living more fully into your life with Christ takes place in the normal routines of everyday life. One of the mistakes made in urging folks to know God better is to only recommend practices that isolate them such as, solitude, retreats, or silence. I’ve made this mistake often because these practices are so challenging yet good for the soul.

Popular Christian formation writer Dallas Willard differentiates various spiritual practices as disciplines of “abstinence” or “engagement.” As helpful as these categories are, he sets up a false dichotomy. Most of the disciplines of “abstinence” are actually practices that engagingly battle against deep issues in our life. This kind of dualistic thinking leads to confusion. We may hesitate to begin practices that are truly helpful.

We need to begin more simply yet fully.  

Though I may sound like a broken record, I want to invite you to a practice that includes many of the “disciplines” all in one simple, package. Its practice is also “biblical” and in obedience to Christ’s teachings. 

As the saying goes: “You eat the elephant one bite at a time.” or “The journey of a lifetime begins with one step.” 

Here is one bite towards fullness and one step towards a deepening journey with God… 

Say the Lord’s Prayer at least three times every day.

Our Father in heaven, hollowed beYour name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. 

Simple. Doable. Effective. 

This can be done in the quiet of your own home. The prayer can be said while driving. The words can be spoken out loud or silently. You can say them before you get out of bed in the morning and when you get into bed at night; during a boring meeting or in the middle of a traumatic event. Saying these words can ward off anger and lessen frustrations. A good suggestion is to say the prayer before you eat. 

Set an alarm on your phone to remind you – 6:00am, 12:00 noon, 6:00pm; or 9:00am, 12:00pm, and 3:00pm. Whatever it takes to make it a regular part of your day, do it. 

Don’t be concerned with “feeling” the words or even understanding their full meaning. Say them with sincerity of heart and mind, focusing your attention on Jesus Christ. 

Most commonly, saying the Lord’s Prayer will move your heart into a much different place. At the least, it will move your mind to a better place. At the most, it will move your heart into the heart of God – communion. 

Trying to carve out 30 minutes for morning devotions might be too much for you. Reading your Bible for 10 minutes might be too hard right now. But, this prayer is simple, doable, and effective. 

When you engage the Lord’s Prayer like this, your life and relationship with God will become fuller and more flourishing.

“You will show me the paths of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16.11) 

Why not start today.

Share your experiences of putting this into practice. 

Dr. K 

Can The Possibility of Dementia Be Motivation For Developing Inner Prayer?

A Brief Exploration into Prayer of the Heart & Brain Function

My grandfather spent the last few years of his life confined to a bed seemingly oblivious to the world around him. I wonder what he experienced lying there all day. He died at 90.
My father experienced the last few years of his life lost in the darkness of dementia unable to function as he had most of his life. Over the span of 5-6 years, his memory, along with thinking and communication skills, gradually diminished. He died at 86 (due to heart issues).
I have every reason to believe that I will also spend the last years of my life with greatly diminished brain function. OK. I can hear you laughing. It’s probably already happening, I’ll admit. 

What can I do now that will actually help me when this happens? Puzzles? Memory games? Medications? Healthy eating? Exercise? How about learn interior prayer? Huh? 
This may sound weird, but the real prospect of developing dementia is one practical reason why I’m trying to develop an ability to commune with God from my heart verses thinking about God with my brain. I want to know God in and from my heart so that when my brain ceases to function properly, I can still have a vibrant, deepening relationship with God. Does that make sense? 
This kind of treatment for dementia would include a united heart, mind, and soul in unity with the Trinity. When the brain no longer “works,” communion with God can continue. There is no cure for dementia. However, this may be the way for Christians to keep experiencing God no matter their physical and cognitive limitations. 
Explore this in light of what St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4.16-17: So we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. 
In other words, outward afflictions manufacture inner flourishing in God’s grace. Place loss of brain function as an outward affliction (it is when compared to the soul/heart), and you can see where motivation to develop inner communion with God comes from. Constant inner renewal produces unending splendor now and forever. The brain can’t stop that from happening. 
Dementia 
Dementia is described not as a specific disease, but as a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment.
Symptoms include forgetfulness, limited social skills, and thinking abilities so impaired that it interferes with daily functioning.
The Alzheimer’s Association website reports…
While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia:
  • Memory
  • Communication and language
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

People with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or traveling out of the neighborhood.

Many dementias are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse.

Treatment of dementia depends on its cause. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure and no treatment that slows or stops its progression.

A Spiritual Treatment 
Since there is no physical cure or treatment that stops the progression of dementia, an alternative approach needs to be explored. How about a spiritual one?
Would it be possible to spiritually circumvent the brain allowing our heart to control our life?
Could we ever come to the point where our mind and heart are so united that we could function well even though our cognitive faculties are diminished? 
Here’s what I’m thinking (while I can 😉): Let the prospect of dementia work in your favor – learn to know God from your inner being not your brain. Know God not as an idea you think about but as a person with whom you relate, heart to heart. Learn to relate in silence and quiet since that’s probably where you’re headed. Learn to commune with God from within your heart. 

Training for Inner Communion

St. Paul encourages his son Timothy to train himself in godliness because godliness, compared to physical exercise, is good for now AND eternity (1 Timothy 4.7-8). Godliness is not primarily a thinking process. It is possessing the heart of God. And, surprisingly, our interior being only develops through intentional, bodily training. 

In C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape chides his understudy demon, Wormwood, for allowing his “patient” to become a Christian. But take heart, he says, “There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the enemy’s camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favour.” Screwtape knows that if a convert’s habits remain the same they will experience little of life in Christ. 

Later, Screwtape advises Wormwood how to effect the prayers of his “patient” by keeping them spontaneous, informal, unregularized and definitely without using the body. “At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.” 

That’s what I’m talking about….training the heart, soul, and spirit to be like God so when the brain malfunctions, we can still flourish in knowing God. (According to Jesus, this “knowing” is actually “eternal life”  – a God-life we can live now and forever; see John 17.3). 
What bodily exercises are good for your spiritual being? Start with the basics and let them teach you about God and yourself. (Here’s what’s fun: You can do these even with limited brain function.) 
Prayer – learn to commune with God 1) in silence: with a quiet mind and attentive heart and 2) liturgical prayer: as Jesus taught his disciples and as has been practiced by Christians for 2000+ years. 
The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” is a time-tested way to commune with God at all times. I’m training myself to continually say this prayer so that it becomes the prayer of my heart. It will then be the primary means of communing with God when I have dementia. Thanks be to God! 
Fasting – learn to commune with God by pulling away from activities that distract your heart so that you grow in experiencing God’s love with your whole heart, mind, and spirit. 
Almsgiving – learn to commune with God by dispossessing your stuff, including money, and giving to those in need. With actions of sacrificial giving you develop a heart like Jesus who always lived like this. 
Sometimes during my father’s last years on earth, we would sit together on a small bench outside his apartment. There he’d commune with God in creation watching birds fly and feeling breezes blow. He’d notice these same things every time and comment on them as if he’d experienced them for the first time. In sweet childlikeness, he simply experienced God. I wanted more for him and, to my shame, from him. Yet, he was content. God was enough. 
I am not happily looking forward to years of living with dementia. I’m actually not going to have much say in the matter. Yet, I never want to stop experientially knowing God no matter how fuzzy my brain becomes. I don’t even know if what I’m writing about will “work” then. It doesn’t really matter. It’s working now. I’ll just plan on it working later as well
What do you think about my proposal? Share your thoughts below. 
Dr. K 
 
P.S. The best book I know to introduce yourself to this kind of praying is Prayer of the Heart by George Maloney. It’s pure inspiration for the serious inquirer.

Prayer For Dummies (You & Me!)

Learn to Pray Using This Time-Honored Practice

I was “educated” at a Christian university, Christian theological seminary, and Christian doctoral program (at another Christian university/seminary). One would think that in all the classes I took there would have been at least one class that taught students how to pray. Good grief! Prayer is seen all through the scriptures – Old & New. All the greats of Scripture talked and communed with God. There is not one ancient saint, godly Christian historical figure or missionary who wasn’t known as a person of prayer. It must be that in academic settings, even Christian ones, prayer has a hard time fitting in.

Of course, its not like prayer was totally ignored. Classes usually began with prayer of some sort. There was often prayer before events like concerts, recitals, sports, and dramatic plays. Some schools dedicated a day to prayer. I guess it was assumed that by being a Christian you knew how to pray.

In contrast, the classic, historical Church was a place of prayer, her liturgy filled with prayer after prayer. These prayers spilled over into the everyday life of the Christian. They were essential to one’s life as a Christian. In reality, the Church taught you how to pray.

But, as churches moved to pulpit-centered services, prayer lost its rightful place. Jesus said that His house was to be a house of prayer. Yet you can observe most contemporary services today with their focus on songs and sermon and never once hear God addressed by all in prayer. No wonder then that most Christians do not really know how to pray.

As an evangelical church leader, I had to learn how to pray on the fly – trial and error. I read substantial and fluffy books on prayer. There were starts and failures along with group experiences and solitary experiments. All the time I struggled with knowing how to pray. I was a “dummie” as far as prayer was concerned. 

That is until I began to be taught how to pray by the Church. I now know, by personal experience, that Psalms, silence, liturgical prayers, prayers of repentance, icons, sacred places, set times, and physical actions are essential components to vibrant prayer. A prayer rule includes these elements.

Here are some prayers you can include in your prayer rule:

Opening Prayers

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to You our God, Glory to You.

Prayer to Holy Spirit 
Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, Treasury of Goodness and Giver of life: come and abide in us. Cleanse us from every stain of sin and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.

Trisagion Prayer

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us. (3x) 

Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen

All Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, forgive our sins. Master, pardon our transgressions. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for the glory of Your Name. 

Lord, have mercy. (3x) 

Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen 

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I realize my iniquity, and my sin is before me continually. (Pause and remember your sinfulness) Against Thee only have I sinned I and done evil in Thy sight, that Thou mayest be justified in Thy words and win when Thou art judged. For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother desire me. For, lo, Thou lovest truth; the unknown and secret things of Thy wisdom Thou hast made known to me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear joy and gladness; the bones that have been humbled will rejoice. Turn Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy face, I and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and confirm me with a princely spirit. I shall teach Thy ways to the lawless and the godless will return to Thee. Deliver me from blood, O God – O God of my salvation – and my tongue shall extol Thy justice. O Lord, Thou wilt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would have given it; but burnt offerings do not please Thee. The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and humble heart God will not despise. Gladden Zion, O Lord, with Thy good will; and let the walls of Jerusalem be built. Then Thou wilt be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, the oblation and burnt offerings; then they will offer calves on Thine altar. 

Doxology

Glory to God, who has shown us the Light!

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men!

We praise You! We bless You! We worship You!

We glorify You and give thanks to You for Your great glory!

O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty!

O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit!

O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us!

You, Who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer!

You, Who sit on the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us!

For You alone are holy, and You alone are Lord. You alone, O Lord Jesus Christ, are most high in the glory of God the Father! Amen!

I will give thanks to You every day and praise Your Name for ever and ever.

Lord, You have been our refuge from generation to generation! I said, “Lord, have mercy on me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You!”

Lord, I flee to You, Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. For with You is the fountain of Life, and in Your light shall we see light.

Continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You.

Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.

Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your Name for ever. Amen.

Let Your mercy be upon us, O Lord, even as we have set our hope on You.

Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.

Blessed are You, O Master; make me to understand Your commandments.

Blessed are You, O Holy One; enlighten me with your precepts.

Your mercy endures forever, O Lord! Do not despise the works of your hands!

To You belongs worship, to You belongs praise, to You belongs glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

Dismissal Prayer

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. 

I encourage you to print these prayers and use them every morning. Use the Jesus Prayer throughout the day. The “Opening Prayers” are marvelous to use for your evening prayers, also. 

At some level, you may always feel “dumb” about prayer (probably a good thing). Yet, a prayer rule will give you the confidence to move forward anyway. 

Re-read my previous posts on structuring a prayer rule and begin establishing this time-tested way of praying by using the prayers in this post.

Share below how it goes for you. 

Dr. K 

Does Your Prayer Life Need A Boost? Thoughtfully Upgrade It With A Prayer Rule

Enrich Your Prayer Life

Prayer is a mystery but it is not rocket science. You can have a vibrant prayer life filled with joy and confidence in God. My prayer life moved to another level when I established a prayer rule and practiced the rule regularly. This can happen to you as well. 

A prayer rule is the outline of a daily prayer routine. It is important to have a thought out rule. Casually going to your place for prayer and merely talking to God is not the best way to have a vibrant prayer life. You find that you end up babbling in front of God instead of truly communing with Him in thoughtful stillness. You can take advantage of the centuries of wisdom and experience by using proven prayers that lift up your heart in loving conference with the Triune God. 

First, a prayer rule should specify the place and time of prayer. A spare bedroom, a home office, a quiet corner, or secluded work space are ideal for solitude. Designating specific times – for example, 6:30-7:00AM and 9:30-10:00PM – allows you to prioritize time with God.

 Secondly, it should outline the sequence of your prayers and the specific prayers you will say.

Below is an example of a beginners prayer rule. If you need help in designing a prayer rule that best fits your level of prayer, please contact me. I’d be happy to provide some guidance that matches your desires and life situation. 

Outline for Morning and Evening Prayer

       Place: In the spare bedroom with candle in front of an icon or picture of Jesus 

       Time: 6:30am and 10:00pm for 20 minutes each time

  • Begin by lighting a candle and standing quietly to collect yourself in your heart
  • Introductory Prayers* – Prayer to Holy Spirit, Trisagion Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
  • One of six Morning or Evening Psalms: Ps. 121, 90, 51; 70, 104,143 (1, 141)
  • Intercessions for family, friends, Church, special needs 
  • Psalm 51 and confession of your sinfulness and prayer for forgiveness 
  • Doxology* and the morning or evening prayer
  • Silence
  • Jesus prayer – repeat 100 times
  • Reflect quietly on the tasks of the day and prepare yourself for the difficulties you might face asking God to help you or in the evening reflect on the day and the difficulties you ecountered and how you dealt with them. 
  • Dismissal prayer*

       Remember to stop mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon to say a simple prayer like the Lord’s Prayer. 

       Repeat the Jesus Prayer whenever you can throughout the day.

       Offer a prayer before and after each meal thanking God and asking for His blessing.

There you have it – a brief outline of prayers which may be included in your prayer rule. Doable. Orderly. Meaningful. Enriching. 

Start by outlining the prayers you want to include in your prayer rule. Start saying the Lord’s Prayer at set times during the day. Repeat the Jesus Prayer throughout the day.

When you do so, you’re on your way to a vibrant prayer life. 

Share below how it goes for you.

Dr. K  

*These prayers will be given to you in my next post. 

Hope For Those Wanting To Know “How To” Pray

Brief Instructions on a Prayer Rule

I sit on the veranda overlooking the Caribbean ocean fitfully sobbing. As a 16 year old kid, I’m alone confronting my own contemptuous selfishness, flush with shame. My parents are fully confident that God wants us serving Him in Jamaica. I’m far-removed from such certainty. But as I read “How to Pray” by R. A. Torrey, the rottenness of my rebellion, self-centeredness, and stubbornness overwhelms me. Thus the brokenhearted tears. I am a mess and don’t know the extent of it.

Now, 46 years later, as I look back at that crucially formative time, I see God’s handprint all over. Three realities introduced there mark me for life – solitude, repentance, and prayer. It’s too bad that I practically ignore those realities for most of my life. Now, thanks to the grace of God, I’m trying to make up for lost time (if that’s even possible). 

So here’s a question coming out of my own life experience. How is it that we can go through our entire Christian life and never learn how to competently communicate with God? I use the words “how to” on purpose because I believe that is our main problem. We know the Bible includes exhortations to pray. We’ve studied Jesus’ prayer for His disciples. We’ve heard dozens of sermons about prayer. We may have even read some books on the subject. We know that we should pray, need to pray, want to get answers to prayer, feel guilty when we don’t pray with or for others, and should “pray without ceasing.”

Yet, prayer remains a mystery without any kind of solving involved. Our hearts clamor to know God more deeply. Yet we are ignorant of the practice of prayer in that process. We know we’re “supposed to” pray but we struggle with “how to” pray. 

Part of the problem is that we’ve ignored a solid, time-tested “how to” of prayer the Church has practiced for centuries while inventing innovative, hit-or-miss methods of self-expression and individualistic credo. Prayer is no longer seen as abiding communion with God. Prayer is more like verbally rubbing the magic lamp so the genie-god will appear to give us what we wish for. 

The best “how to” for prayer that I’ve experienced over the last decade is a “rule of prayer.” A prayer rule, thoughtfully and wisely established, can transform your relationship with God and your own heart. Real communion with God is possible when you include components such as:

  • Morning liturgical prayers
  • Psalms
  • Scripture readings
  • Silence/stillness
  • Intercessory prayers 
  • Prayers throughout the day 
  • Evening prayers 

A prayer rule need not be lengthy or complicated. In fact, it must be simple and doable. Those knowledgable of a prayer rule all say the same. Begin small and let it grow over time, if at all. The important thing is consistency and true communion. 

15-20 minutes in the morning, prayers throughout the day, and 5-10 minutes in the evening = prayer rule. Most of us have 20-30 minutes every day to devote to prayer if our desire for God is great enough. 

In my next post, I’ll get more specific about what might be included in a rule of prayer.

In the meantime, ask God to help you establish a prayer rule for yourself and ask Him “how to” do it. 

Dr. K 

3 Components To A Resonate Prayer Life

How To Build A Good Rule of Prayer

The idea of a prayer rule is new to most people who read The UnCommon Journey. I’d say most of you have a time set apart each day to meet with God. You’ve learned over the years how important it is to read your Bible and pray daily. You pray for others and sometimes for yourself. You wish you were more consistent but at least you’re doing something to connect with God and care for others. Aren’t you doing enough already? Why complicate things with a “prayer rule?” However, since a prayer rule is how Christians communed with God for most of Church history, let’s assume it would be good to re-introduce it to ourselves. So, how should you begin to build your prayer rule? Read the advice of one who engages in a prayer rule and who encourages others in it. 

 

 

The rule is for man, and not the other way around.

Archpriest Andrei Ovchinikov writes: 

—There are three important components to a prayer rule: proper measure, consistency, and quality.

1. Proper measure. The proper measure adorns a person in any work—both earthly and spiritual. It is very important to find the middle, royal path. This is a surety of success. This law is important and relevant in our prayer rule. We have to force ourselves in prayer on the one hand, but refrain from zeal not according to reason on the other. We mustn’t be lazy, but it is also dangerous to overdo it. In my view, it is better not to complete something in a prayer rule, and leave the desire to pray for another day. Overdoing it more often than not causes aversion and inner protest. The fathers say that the small rule is without price. Obviously there is need of a spiritual guide here, who is experienced and discerning in the practical work of prayer. But this advice presupposes a measure of freedom and personal choice on the part of the inquirer.

Do not take on a long rule. Let it be something that you could do all your life. Remember: The rule is for man, and not the other way around. The proper measure found keeps a person in good spiritual shape, but also preserves joy in the heart and the desire for prayer. Take many factors into consideration: age, health, marital status, workload, and so on. The fruit of correct prayer labor is deep humility and inner peace.

2. Consistency. Be consistent in prayer. This is what the apostle Paul tells us to do. Success in any work depends upon our zeal and consistency—but not only on this. To be sure, the rolling stone gathers no moss. But we also have to remember that we are only God’s co-workers. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). It is essential that God bless our labors. The holy fathers talk about synergy—about our consistent labor in prayer and grace-filled help from on high. This is the pledge of our success. There can be no pauses in the labor of prayer. The labor of prayer reminds us of riding a bicycle or rowing upstream—only unremitting effort and work ensure our forward movement. The same laws are at work in prayer: Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). For the sake of our constancy in the work of prayer, dryness of heart and emotional boredom will with time give place to a robust spirit and the desire for prayer. This is a sign of progress and grace-filled help from above.

3. Quality. Quality is better than quantity. Anyone who has decided to take up the work of prayer should remember this. The quality of prayer can be determined by two signs: attention of the mind and depth of repentance in the heart.

St. John Climacus calls attention the soul of prayer. He counsels anyone to enclose the mind in the words of prayer. At first this may be very hard for everyone, but we mustn’t give up. If we put in the effort, God will definitely help us, and in time will send a guardian angel for our prayer.

Repentance in the heart and deep humility —this is the true table of oblation from which God accepts our spiritual sacrifices, the most important of which is prayer. Also, be at prayer like a burbling child and a guileless infant—forgive all those who have offended you and pray for them. Remember your irredeemable debt before God, and then it will be easier for you to forgive people. It is important to acquire inner lamentation of heart over your sins—the important sign of true repentance.

Understandably, it is possible to fulfill these conditions with a short prayer rule. Everything of authentically good quality is usually found as a limited edition. In teaching music to children we require them to play “purely” a simple scale, when learning a foreign language we have to correctly build a phrase, and a beginning driver has to keep from knocking over the flags when parking. Experience comes with time, and then more labors can be added. But we will fulfill with humility our small prayer rule, everyday and consistently, controlling the quality of our prayer, remembering that it is not our labors that determine success, but God’s all-powerful aid—with which everything is possible for us in this life and the next.

As you begin to build a prayer rule keep these three characteristics in mind. It would also be good to remember them as you regularly practice your prayer rule. 

I will provide more specifics in posts to come. 

Dr. K 

How To Pray From Someone Who Knows What He’s Talking About

I awake this morning, after a restless night, feeling out of sorts. My muscles ache and my mind races. I don’t feel like praying. Yet, as much as I want to give in to my feelings, I know it’s better to show up at my place of solitude and start saying my prayers. So, lacking much desire or enthusiasm, I show up and start. The lousy feelings soon die down replaced by a sense of God’s gracious presence. I’m nothing special. I struggle with prayer. It’s the power of a compelling Prayer Rule. 

 

St. Theophan the Recluse, a beloved Orthodox bishop from 19th c. Russia, encourages all Christians to establish a prayer rule due to our weaknesses of laziness or enthusiasm. Having lived by a Prayer Rule for decades, he passes to us words of wisdom… 

 

A prayer rule for one who is on the path of a God-pleasing life.

 

You ask about a prayer rule. Yes, it is good to have a prayer rule on account of our weakness so that on the one hand we do not give in to laziness, and on the other hand we restrain our enthusiasm to its proper measure. The greatest practitioners of prayer kept a prayer rule. They would always begin with established prayers, and if during the course of these a prayer started on its own, they would put aside the others and pray that prayer. If this is what the great practitioners of prayer did, all the more reason for us to do so. Without established prayers, we would not know how to pray at all. Without them, we would be left entirely without prayer.

However, one does not have to do many prayers. It is better to perform a small number of prayers properly than to hurry through a large number of prayers, because it is difficult to maintain the heat of prayerful zeal when they are performed to excess.

I would consider the morning and evening prayers as set out in the prayer books to be entirely sufficient for you. Just try each time to carry them out with full attention and corresponding feelings. To be more successful at this, spend a little of your free time at reading over all the prayers separately. Think them over and feel them, so that when you recite them at your prayer rule, you will know the holy thoughts and feelings that are contained in them. Prayer does not mean that we just recite prayers, but that we assimilate their content within ourselves, and pronounce them as if they came from our minds and hearts.

After you have considered and felt the prayers, work at memorizing them. Then you will not have to fumble about for your prayer book and light when it is time to pray; neither will you be distracted by anything you see while you are performing your prayers, but can more easily maintain thoughtful petition toward God. You will see for yourself what a great help this is. The fact that you will have your prayer book with you at all times and in all places is of great significance. Being thus prepared, when you stand at prayer be careful to keep your mind from drifting and your feeling from coldness and indifference, exerting yourself in every way to keep your attention and to spark warmth of feeling. After you have recited each prayer, make prostrations, as many as you like, accompanied by a prayer for any necessity that you feel, or by the usual short prayer. This will lengthen your prayer time a little, but its power will be increased. You should pray a little longer on your own especially at the end of your prayers, asking forgiveness for unintentional straying of the mind, and placing yourself in God’s hands for the entire day.

You must also maintain prayerful attention toward God throughout the day. For this, as we have already mentioned more than once, there is remembrance of God; and for remembrance of God, there are short prayers. 

                                  — from The Spiritual Life and How To Be Attuned to It, pp. 204-209

If you’ve never considered a Prayer Rule for yourself, consider one now. If you’ve begun organizing your prayer times with set patterns, may you be encouraged to continue. If you’re a veteran of a Prayer Rule, let it guide you to the heart of God. 

Dr. K 

Sharing The Secret To Resonant Communion With God

Freedom Is Found Within A Rule

Wouldn’t it be great if you could organize an everyday prayer habit? Given the choice between a sporadic, sketchy prayer routine and a vibrant, vital one, most Christians would choose the latter. Yet, many Christians do not know how to establish a vibrant, vital prayer routine or maybe fear the idea of organized prayer. Most are familiar with “daily devotions,” “morning quiet time,” or “Bible study.”  However, they’ve never been challenged to organize a daily “prayer rule” to enhance their relationship with God. I offer up that challenge.

 

The idea of a rule for Christian prayer has been around for centuries. It is how the Church prays whether liturgically or personally. The concept of personal “spontaneous” prayers is a relatively modern one. Though spontaneity may be beneficial in communion with God, it should not be the totality of your prayer life. A prayer rule provides the foundation and framing upon which resonant communion with God is built. 

Perhaps the reason so many Christians struggle in prayer is because they think they need to make up their own prayers every time they pray. This becomes difficult to sustain as they find themselves either at loss as to what to say or stuck saying the same inane words over and over again. 

These frustrations with prayer can be eliminated by establishing a prayer rule. 

Meaning of Rule

The English word “canon” comes from the Greek κανών, meaning “rule” or “measuring stick.” 

By establishing a prayer “rule” you set up a personal “canon” – a list of prayers you say daily at set times and, if possible, at set places. This rule becomes the guiding authority for communion with God. It also provides a “measuring stick” to size up the scope of your prayer life. 

You may defensively react to such notions. Any idea of putting “rules” on prayer seems legalistic or restraining. Yet, it’s actually freeing. 

Like rules for any activity, a prayer rule sets you free to engage God with genuine attentiveness. Can you imagine playing basketball without rules? It would be a chaotic mess with every player doing whatever he/she wants just as long as the ball goes through the hoop. It would cease to be a basketball game and resemble a 5-on-5, free-for-all, full contact fight. For any activity, rules are a must.

I am not advocating that a set of rules be placed on how you pray, though some guidance is usually good. I’m suggesting that you establish a set way of praying into which you enter daily. For example, a prayer rule may include certain liturgical prayers, silence, intercessory prayers, psalms, prayers of thanksgiving or praying at certain times during the day. 

You are free then to enter what has already been established as good and fruitful rather than “winging it,” making it up as you go hoping something good will result. 

Over the next couple weeks, my posts will help you establish a prayer rule. I hope you’ll take  up the challenge to commune with God using a prayer rule. 

Dr. K 

 

Today Is The Perfect Day To Be With Jesus

Seek First His Kingdom & Righteousness

What’s on your schedule today? Get kids to school? Meet with your company’s CEO? Go grocery shopping? Take your dog to the vet? Make 5 sales calls? Have lunch with a friend? Attend your son’s soccer game? Prepare your Bible study lesson? Study for tomorrow’s exam? Drop off clothes at Goodwill? Fix dinner for the family? Mow the yard? Get a hair cut? Stop yelling at the kids? Help a neighbor? Pray? Today is the perfect day to do all of this with Jesus. 

How about, spend time with Jesus? Is that on your schedule? Today is the perfect day to be with Jesus. The good news is that you can accomplish what’s on your schedule while spending time with Jesus. It’s not “either/or but “both/and” – you can BOTH accomplish what’s on your agenda AND be with Jesus. 

While you are driving, meeting, calling, eating, preparing, watching, fixing, or mowing you can be with Jesus. That’s good news. 

Even greater news is that Jesus is already with you and in you. You just have to pay attention…something that’s challenging to do since there is so much in a day that preoccupies your attention and distracts your heart and mind from God. 

Jesus invites you to live like this when He says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6.33). The priority of each day you live is God – His governance/authority/rule and His goodness/reality – in all things. When you live with God’s governance and goodness already present and active in and around you, you are assured of all other responsibilities being realized.

Schedules are best accomplished as you participate in God’s rule in union with Him. 

Actually devoting your every moment to Jesus Christ while doing everything else will take some concerted effort. Prayer is the key. 

You’re probably already connecting with God in prayer before your meals – three times a day. 

You can increase prayer times to the traditional “hours” of 6 AM & 9 AM, Noon, 3 PM, 6 PM, and 9 PM. Say the Lord’s prayer at these times drawing your heart to God. Set alerts on your phone for these hours as reminders to pray. You can pray silently wherever you are or whatever you’re doing at these times. 

You can “pray without ceasing” using the Jesus Prayer as the instrument played all throughout the day. Commune with God continually as you repeat the Jesus Prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

As you drive, don’t turn on the radio or CD player but use the time to pray the Jesus Prayer and commune with God…yes, even with children present. 

Do this same thing as you fix meals, mow the lawn, sit in meetings, watch games, or eat your food. 

You will discover joy, peace, goodness and love like never before. Anxiety and fear will lessen. You’ll see beauty everywhere. You’ll become more like Jesus.

It’s simply the best way to live each day. 

How will you commune with God throughout the day today? 

Dr. K

P.S. Here’s a little cliche to practice: Commune as you commute.