Whether we face challenges and uncertainty or even in times of relative peace, the phrase “I want to pray,” reflects a deep awareness of our reliance on God. Merely acknowledging a desire to pray can be a spark that ignites a raging fire of love for God. Prayer takes many forms, but we tend to only venture out so far when it comes to our prayer practices. We often overlook one of the most ancient prayer practices in our Christian tradition. Contemplative prayer focuses on listening to God, by simply becoming aware of our desire to be drawn into God’s presence. Listening is critical in the development of any relationship. As basic as it may seem, verbalizing and listening are the building blocks of all communication. Prayer, the sacred form of communication, includes both speaking and listening, and practicing prayer that includes both is essential to a richer prayer life.
Contemplative prayer is a form of prayer that had its origin in the mid 4th to early 5th centuries. During this period, “Hermits, Ascetics and Monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt, beginning around the third century CE, were the first Christian hermits, who abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude. These original desert hermits were Christians fleeing the chaos and persecution of the Roman Empire’s Crisis of the Third Century.” (Merton) In times of uncertainty, one does not have to escape to the desert or live in solitude in order to find solace in God’s peace. Abba Isaac, one of the early “Desert Fathers” taught, “the person who continually invokes God as his protector, is aware that God is ever present at hand.” (Pennington, p. 18) Through the knowledge of God’s presence with us, even in times of trouble, uncertainty, and anxiety, we can have confidence. Abba Isaac also asserted, prayer that “contains an invocation of God, a humble confession of faith, a reverent watchfulness, a meditation on human frailty, an act of confidence in God’s response, is an assurance of his ever-present support.” (Pennington, p. 18) In other words, when we say “I want to pray,” we verbalize our heart’s desire to be present with God. “I want to pray” is an attentive acknowledgement of our reliance on God, which leads to a desire for conversation with God.
There are times in life when we face the unknown, when feelings of anxiety and fear emerge and threaten our sense of God’s peace. Anxiety such as this usually accompanies major changes or life transitions, but through prayer, we can recall that our Great Protector is always present. We can face uncertain times knowing that the Spirit lifts us to a place of quiet confidence. It is this confidence that gives us the strength to face any adversity.
O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you,
to your presence, where we may be still and know that you
are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer p. 832 )
Peace and Blesssings,
1. Merton,Thomas (1960).”The Wisdom of the Desert, Abbey of Gethsemani”
2. Pennington, M. Basil (2001). “Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form” 3. 1979 Book of Common Prayer