We all have experiences, insights and resources to share when it comes to things we’ve found helpful in our prayer relationship with God. So we’re going to try and collect some of those insights and resources here.
Take what is good and useful, reflected in scripture, and if a particular approach isn’t helpful for you, set it aside and try something else.
We will continue to add to this post along the way, as people share what has been helpful to them.
“Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home” by Richard Foster
This book is a classic and accessible introduction to prayer in many forms, as well as addressing some of the challenges and hangups commonly experienced as we engage prayer. This book on prayer is a great place to start. No matter where you are in your faith journey, you’re likely to find some helpful guidance that will invite you deeper.
“The Practice of the Presence of God” – By Brother Lawrence
Sometimes we might get to thinking that prayer must be done only at certain sacred times or in special ways and just the right words. Or that prayer is for the super-spiritual. “The Practice of the Presence of God” points us to a different way: prayer that encounters and orients us toward God in the ordinary, everyday things of life.
Brother Lawrence was a cook and janitor in his duties as a member of a Carmelite monastery in France during the mid 1600’s. Yet he approached those common, humble tasks as being done in the presence of God and for the love of God. This drew the attention of his superiors, who conducted interviews about his life of prayer. These interviews, along with a few pages of his own writing that were found among his personal effects, were collected into this book, first published in 1707. It is a short read, but a powerful invitation into a different approach to life and prayer.
A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People
For those who find a bit more structure and rhythm helpful, this book contains a daily pattern of devotional time that includes prayer, scripture readings and short readings for reflection. The book takes the reader through the rhythms of the Christian year, following the Lectionary and inviting a pattern of devotional prayer and time that is rooted the story of our walk with God through scripture.
The Way of a Pilgrim
Prayer is not only about naming our needs and our blessings before God, it is also an invitation to experience life lived in the indwelling presence of God. Prayer is meant to be relational.
This book is another classic that comes from the Orthodox tradition of Christianity, written in the 19th century by an unknown Russian author. It describes the experience of a pilgrim who takes seriously Paul’s instruction that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Specifically, this pilgrim decides to practice the continual prayer of one specific short prayer, known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is not a repetition intended to move God, but a repetition that becomes ingrained in the mind and heart, that orients us toward God and the reality of God’s loving presence towards us in Jesus where we are right now.
Prayers like this may not be as common in the Baptist tradition; and we may not like to think of ourselves as “sinners” – with the connotation of shame it can imply. And yet, that is simply the reality and truth; all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory – none of us is perfect, none of us has escaped the scars and wounds of living in this world, or has been free from inflicting those wounds on others. To pray the Jesus prayer is to root ourselves in the reality of who Jesus is: The Son of God, our Lord – the one who reveals and incarnates God’s presence. It roots us in the reality of our present brokenness and need. And it does so mindful of the goodness and character of God who is merciful and ready to forgive, heal, and transform.
“Fasting” by Scot McKnight
Fasting is another practice not altogether common to many of us; perhaps associated only with the season of Lent (if we’re somewhat liturgically inclined), giving up meat or chocolate or cussing for a period of time till we can return to our normal habits with a sense of relief later on.
But fasting is a practice found in connection with prayer throughout scripture, and which Jesus himself notably undertook before beginning his public ministry as told in the Gospels.
Scot McKnight explores fasting, not as a temporary sacrifice we make to encourage God to do something for us or in us, but as a way we engage the whole body in prayer – not just something cerebral or emotional, but an expression of our whole selves.