“Give us Today our Daily Bread” -James Hook (1866)
Michael Foss (Power Surge) lists “daily prayer” as “The first mark of a disciple.”
From Yearning Minds and Burning Hearts: Understanding the Spirituality of Jesus by Glandion Carney , William Rudolf Long
“’Prayer changes us.’” The ultimate value of prayer is that it opens us to understand God and the world in fresh ways. Prayer gives us new spectacles to see the world–glasses that put the seemingly huge demands of contemporary life in a new perspective. Prayer helps us listen to the voice of God, accept the will of God and ask for the good things of God
“The practice of prayer is a standing rebuke to the wisdom of the world. The practice of prayer affirms a dimension to life that is unseen and unmeasurable, while the wisdom of the world considers something important only if it is visible and quantifiable. The practice of prayer proclaims that people are spiritual beings, rooted in the heart, while the wisdom of the world assumes that we are economic beings, concerned primarily with our personal net worth and an adequate retirement income. The practice of prayer indicates that God is the watcher, guide and protector of our lives, while the wisdom of the world teaches that unless we stand up for ourselves, no one will. The practice of prayer proves that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), while the wisdom of the world says we need all the resources ahead of time and all the right people speaking up for us or we will not be able to get what we want out of life. The practice of prayer says, “Don’t worry.” The wisdom of the world says, “Calculate.”
“Prayer is one of the principal ways of enlarging our awareness of God and of the universe. Prayer assumes there is more to the world than we can experience with our five senses. The great diversity of living things in the world should not only increase our sense of wonder, but also give us an awareness of our human limitations
“Prayer is the unique opportunity which God gives us to develop a deeper understanding of God and of the world
The latter is emphasized here -“Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods.” Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972).
Three Characteristics of Prayer
“What is the essential nature of prayer? First, prayer is the door or threshold to the spiritual world where God dwells in unapproachable light. It is the door to the inner world of the heart, whose contours have never fully been mapped. Prayer is the means to a “cartography of the soul,” to a process of spiritual mapmaking. When we pray, we pursue Jesus into the deep things of life, where light and darkness dwell together and neither fully extinguishes the other. Prayer is the door into understanding the heavenly realms as well as the inky abyss. It opens new realms to us.
“Prayer is also the anchor of our lives. It not only opens new vistas into the spiritual life, but also ties us ever more firmly to God in the process. One summer during college I worked at a large office building in San Francisco next to where a skyscraper was being built. It took the crew weeks just to drive the pilings deep into the ground. I still remember the ear-splitting crashes of hammers, the rush of pressurized air and the shouts of workers. They were anchoring the building, now among the tallest in San Francisco, deep into the bowels of the earth so that not even a major earthquake would topple it. Prayer is like that. It anchors us to God by blasting through the layers of debris and dirt of our lives so we might have a sturdy and strong life.
Prayer is, finally, a process of working the earth of the hearth, as the ancient monastic writers might say. In her book The Closter Walk, author Kathleen Norris writes about the ways that the Catholic monastic tradition provides a rhythm and depth for spirituality that many Protestants have never explored. When she says that the life of prayer works “the earth of the heart,” she means that prayer is like the act of cultivation. In order to work the soil, one must break up the hardened dirt clods, water the ground, free it from weeds and then plant a crop. Prayer is the way to “loosen up” the heart. During the natural course of our lives the “earth of our hearts” becomes parched, weed-infested and hard as flint. Unless we take care to break it up to run our fingers again through the rich soil that we know is there, our lives become as destitute and as desiccated as a desert.
Prayer is the means Jesus used to open himself to God, to anchor himself to his Father and to work the earth of his heart. Jesus prayed often and taught his disciples to pray. Prayer was as necessary to him as the air he breathed. I believe it was prayer that gave Jesus his powerful sense of awareness and insight into people and the world. It connected him to God, the source of life, and he began to see things so much from the divine perspective that he had no doubt that his work was God’s work. The practice of prayer gave Jesus an intuitive grasp of the truths of life as well as the political and religious realities around him. He could, figuratively speaking, see into another person’s heart because he knew both his own heart and the heart of God
“… We should, rather, yearn to imitate him and develop a similar commitment to prayer for ourselves. We should look at Jesus’ life as testimony to the benefits of developing a life of prayer. Jesus invites us, through prayer, to experience new, fresh, deep, true and permanent insights into the nature of God, the world and the culture in which we live.