I was very interested when I heard John Tesch hosting a radio program, featuring a segment what he calls “Intelligence For Your Life”.
He said with the recent chaos and confusion of our times, that 20- and 30-year-olds have been much more interested in learning about prayer. Many in that age group have never been a part of a church and they know very little about prayer. They were finding prayer to be a very helpful practice to give a sense of peace and reassurance in such turbulent times.
There’s an old story about two wives of ministers who were mending their husbands’ trousers; one minister was successful and one wasn’t. This was seen in the mending. One was mending the seat of the trousers and the other the knees.
There’s great power in prayer. It’s a subject that needs to be written about and preached on. The saints of the ages have recognized prayer as “the worthiest art” (John Chrysostom, an early church father), the “best resource” (St. Augustine), “the sublimest joy” (Martin Luther). The disciples of Jesus tracked down his empowering secret and found it in his prayers.
All the great leaders of the Christian church have prayed extensively. St. Ignatius of Loyola said he devoted seven hours a day to prayer. John Wesley (founder of Methodism) devoted whole days for prayer and fasting. The Apostle Paul advised, “pray without ceasing.” Jesus spent whole nights praying and conversing with God.
There’s so much to learn about prayer that we can never learn it all. Prayer in many ways is a mystery. We are reminded by the Apostle Paul “we don’t know how to pray as we ought to.” And he speaks of prayer in terms of “deep sighs and groanings that are beyond our understanding.”
Prayer is a journey, not a destination. One person on that journey was John Killinger. At one time John was a professor at Vanderbilt University. He was a poor mountain boy from Kentucky with degrees from both Princeton and Harvard, and a Ph.D. in English literature. He was a brilliant and popular author of many books. There was something missing in John’s life. He wrote about it in his book, “Bread for the Wilderness, Wine for the Journey.”
“We forget how to pray … I am beginning to pray again. The world gradually weaned me away. I became caught up in its frantic pace. I learned to speak the jaunty language of its secularism and self-assurance. ‘What is the use of praying?’ a voice in my heart quietly insinuated … But somewhere along the way to success, after several years of slipping down-hill in my attempts to pray, I began to see that life — the world — is not so rationally determined as I had been led to believe.”
Prayer: Our Lord, teach us about prayer again. We seem stuck for so long in the kindergarten of prayer. Amen.
The Rev. Dan Safarik retired as a full-time pastor at St. Luke Methodist Church in Lincoln and now serves part time at St. Mark’s UMC in Lincoln. Email him at email@example.com
The Rev. Dan Safarik serves St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lincoln. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org