Do You Want To Learn How To Pray?

Learn from Those Who Pray

One of the reasons you struggle with prayer is that you have no one to guide you out of their authentic experience of prayer. What you have are plenty of people who write, preach, and talk about prayer – and now even make movies about it. But what’s missing is someone you know who prays who can teach you to pray. And if you find someone, they often mislead you about prayer. Prayer has been made out to be something divorced from how it’s presented in scripture and modeled in the lives of saintly men and women throughout history. No wonder you’re struggling. And, to make matters worse, there is church. “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” Jesus said. But, what you experience in church has little to do with prayer. Song and Sermon. Prayer is given a nod. However, it’s not the primary means of worship.

You probably can’t do much about church. But, you can do something about your own prayer life. You can learn from Jesus, the brilliant Master of prayer.

In today’s post, I want to continue to explore Jesus’ exchange with his disciples over the request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Today’s observation…

Prayer is best learned from a person who communes with God in prayer.

The disciples must have seen Jesus pray on many occasions. Or, at least they saw him go off by himself to pray. They must have known of his ability and commitment to fellowship with the Father in prayer. He left the crowds for times of solitude. He awoke early to be with His Father. On occasion, He’d spend all night in prayer. So, who better to ask about prayer?

Fr. Seraphim Aldea, an Orthodox monk of Irish decent, who himself has devoted his life to prayer, teaches us this:

Prayer is something one can learn only directly from someone who already knows prayer. As a child you learn by imitation. You learn by copying someone who prays. First, find that someone who has prayer. Then, you need to learn by joining in his or her life and imitating their gestures of prayer. In time, these outward and empty gestures will be filled with content and you’ll start praying with your own prayer. A teacher, and obedience to that teacher, are indispensable for one who wants to truly pray.

Learning from a Praying Person 

Do you have a person in your life who can teach you to pray out of their own communion with God in prayer? This sounds impossible, doesn’t it. “Excuse me, Mac, can I hang out with you for a couple days so I can see how you pray? Then, would you teach me how to do what you do?” Let’s be honest. That’s probably not going to happen. But, you can try. 

And if you do, don’t settle for someone who regurgitates what he or she has read in a book or learned at a seminar. Get close to a person who prays and learn. If you don’t have someone like that in your life (they are rare), then learn from Jesus. 

Learning from Praying Writers 

Another resource from whom to learn prayer, are the lives of prayer athletes of the past – men and women who lived in prayer. Prayer of the Heart  by George Maloney introduces you to many of these prayer masters. The Art of Prayer , Igumen Chariton, compiles some writings of ancient Greek and Russian prayer masters. The Lives of the Desert Fathers, Benedicta Ward, takes you to the fourth century to discover men who devoted their lives to struggling with God in solitude and prayer.  These writings are not for the faint of heart. But, I want to recommend substantial writings by those who actually pray and then write out of their decades-long experience of prayer. These books have also helped shape my prayer life when I could find no one else to guide me.

From whom are you learning to pray? If there is no one “qualified” then begin by praying for someone. You could also become that person by learning from practitioners of prayer. At least, begin by learning from Jesus. More on that in my next post.

How will you begin to learn prayer from a person? Share below. 

Dr. K

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 thoughts on “Do You Want To Learn How To Pray?

  1. What are your thoughts on stillness? I find that I’m able to focus more in prayer while walking or driving. Perhaps you will handle this in a future post? Thanks so much for the reading material!

    • Hi Rob. Did you not receive the “Journey to Stillness” ebook when you subscribed to The UnCommon Journey? If not, text me your email address and I’ll send you a copy. I’m all for learning stillness while engaging your daily activities. This is where the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” can be used effectively. You will still face the challenge of wandering thoughts. This prayer helps you return your heart to God. At the same time, there is great value in struggling to be still in solitude. It’s like going to the gym so that the rest of the day your metabolism is in high gear. The gym here is your place of solitude where, in silence, you commune with God from your heart. This is always a struggle however but is worth every minute. I have addressed stillness in many past posts. Click on December on the list in the right panel of the blog. Also, you can click on the tag – “Prayer & Fasting” and find some posts on stillness. Email me, [email protected] if you have more questions. It’s great to have you on the journey with us, Rob. Dr. K

  2. Would you have time to talk to God in prayer with your mother? There are family needs that are heavy on my heart. But beyond that there is power in lifting my heart to know God’s heart in my love life for Him.
    Have you heard of the Pilgrim Puritan collection of PURITAN AND DEVOTION Valley of Vision. Arthur Bennett Banner of Truth and Trust publication. A prayer was read from this Sunday in our Sunday School Class and I “freeked” out at its depth and meaning. Mom

    • Howdy. I pray God’s mercy for each of our family members everyday. I don’t pray for outcomes. God knows best. I do have “The Valley of Vision” on a book shelf but have never used it for my prayer times. I know many benefit from its use. It is deep and rich in meaning, no doubt. I personally find the Orthodox prayer book a better fit for the liturgical and sacramental life God has invited me into. These prayers are a continuation of and a preparation for the Divine Liturgy we engage every Sunday. I am thankful for the “tools” available to challenge us to a deeper relationship with the Trinity. Thanks be to God for all things. Keith

  3. I purchased 3 books; The Book of Common Prayer, Daily Prayers for Orthodox Christians, and An Orthodox Prayerbook.

    • You are “loaded for bear” now, my friend. Honestly, I get confused with The Book of Common Prayer. I guess I need something simpler (in format) which the Orthodox prayer books provide. I hope you will find your prayer life stimulated and enriched by the prayers you’ll find in these books. Remember, prayer is about communion with God not about saying prayers. These are tools for communion. Let your heart be shaped by these prayers and become the source of a fuller relationship with God. Bless you, John, in your desire to know God more intimately in prayer. Thanks be to God for all things. Keith

      • once I got past the formulas for yearly function, and actually got into the prayer itself, in the book of common prayer, I really like the structure.
        One of the things I do have issues with in the Orthodox prayer books is the praying to Mary. I have done plenty of that being raised a catholic, but honestly find no biblical precedence that would encourage me to continue in the vain, so I just kind of read/pray past it at this juncture.
        God bless you brother

        • Hey John. You’re a better navigator than I am. To ease your mind a bit about the place of Mary in Orthodox prayers, I’d encourage you to go to a trustworthy Orthodox website and research how they view Mary. It is different than the Roman Catholic view. I found a surprising discussion on this at this site: “https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/an-early-christian-prayer-to-mary/” You might want to check it out. The thread gets off topic. But it starts off good. Blessings to you, brother. Keith

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