One of my unstated goals for 2012 was to improve my prayer habits – to make more deliberate time and effort for prayer. This was building on a stated goal for the prior year, which was simply to talk with God more.
(I cut out a long tl;dr backstory here – most of the people who know me well already know my history.
God calls us through the apostle Paul to pray without ceasing. Many times we forget this and only come to God when we feel a need. But what does it mean to pray without ceasing? I’ve since come to the realization that this means deliberately set aside time for prayer and devotion, and also to remember Him in all aspects of life.
The next question follows easily – which is, how should we pray? In current times, we have the benefit of years of Biblical scholars to help us out. Aside from the most obvious source of the Bible itself, we have men like Martin Luther who wrote a letter on the topic for his barber, called A Simple Way to Pray. (For a good simplification of the story, see the children’s book The Barber Who Wanted to Pray.) Luther’s booklet has been repeatedly brought to my attention in recent months, via different sources, and I felt it was long past time to give it my attention.
Luther states simply that we should focus our attention on the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles Creed – and by doing so deepen both our understanding of our faith and improve our prayer habits. The interesting thing to me that I found by focusing on these words is that Luther set out his Small Catechism in such a way as to follow these instructions. All those “What does this mean?”s that I felt tormented by as a youngster in confirmation class now show me that I had some of the basics all along.
Slowly and deliberately, then, I shall make my way once more through the Small Catechism, which apparently has the distinction of being considered one of the only pray-able catechisms.* I shall continue to set aside daily time for prayer, but remember to deal prayerfully with all areas of life. My prayers are with those who also struggle with this daily, for it is not an easy task.
*It has also been suggested that those seeking deeper faith resources in the Reformed tradition check out the Heidelberg Catechism. Personally I have much less experience with that document, but I do intend to read it more fully as well.
P.S. Several church bodies have published daily devotionals that are excellent resources, and I’ve found that using the digital versions helps me to retain that daily habit of devotional time. If you’re seeking such, Concordia Publishing House has Portals of Prayer, but there are several podcasts I listen to, both Lutheran and Reformed, that are good daily resources as well.