We're making big changes. Please try out the beta site at beta.ccel.org and send us feedback. Thank you!

Prayer is like breathing

RobynHerself's picture

Do you find it difficult to pray, or do you find prayer as natural as breathing?

For some, it seems to us that prayer is as they air they breathe, rising from the heart, a continual fragrant offering to God.

For others, it feels like a task, difficult to get past handing God a "to do" list.

We want move from a "Honey-Do" type of prayer life to a continual stream of communication with God.

Share some things you have found helpful in growing in prayer. We may explore these ideas more fully in future discissions.

Vara Sue Tamminga's picture

Thomas Kelly and G. Scott Sparrow

There is a lifetime of study and practice I could suggest that you read or participate in. However, two authors rise as the pillars of spiritual communion for me. Thomas Kelly's A Testament of Devotion and his Eternal Promise have helped me profoundly. Thomas Kelly was a philosophy professor teaching at Haverford, the Quaker liberal Arts College. He was a missionary to Germany between the world wars and also a student of Oriental Religion. He also studied the Russian Orthodox Jesus Prayer which is the constant repetition of the brief prayer, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner. He describes more eloquently than anyone else I know how unceasing prayer can become a steady stream of conscious awareness, like Brother Lawrence the medieval mystic who prayed while washing dishes and doing all his tasks. Apparently this gift of prayer became a living reality for Kelly, who is one of our greatest American mystics of the 20th century. He describes how he could go about his day, working and teaching while the Jesus prayer continued without ceasing in his heart. He had a deep understanding of both Western and Eastern mysticism both through scholarly study and through personal practice. I love his invitation and example of forming a steady relationship with God so that the Holy Spirit abides with us as our constant companion and friend but also as the infinite expanse of the universe giving life to all creation.

The second author I would share is an old friend of mine, G. Scott Sparrow and his book, Lo I Am With You Always. I began having encounters with Christ when I was a teenager and often attended the same church camp as Scott. He became a psychotherapist and dream researcher. He collected stories of people's encounter with Christ in this book. It is amazing how many stories there are of all kinds, some involving physical healing, others gentle guidance, others life changing inspiration. Now whenever I go to have my cancer tests or treatment, I take this book with me to read in the waiting or treatment rooms. Its inspiration is the best treatment of all. I love having a book, in addition to the Bible, where I can open the pages and meet with the Lord. I feel truly blessed to share with so many ordinary, average people in this amazing communion. Also these people are from every stage of life, some deeply committed Christians, others not. I love seeing how Christ speaks to so many people from different circumstances and stages of spiritual growth. Scott reflects from time to time that Jesus seems to appear most often when we need him, so that rather than seeing visions of Christ as a fruit of special religious devotion, these visits may indicate a turning point or a special danger that we face. Scott suggests that not seeing the savior may be an indication that all is well rather than any lack of connection. But again, I appreciate this knowledge that our relationship with God is to be a steady stream of communion within our daily lives, rather than some ritual set apart in a special place. I do think that worship rituals are important. I love visiting churches and concerts of sacred music and meditating with a prayer for deep healing. But I treasure more than these special experiences, the constant presence of Jesus as someone who walks beside me through every experience, who gives me joy and delight in the simple pleasures of daily life as well as comfort when I face pain or fear. I have seen too much suffering and been through great trials. I cannot imagine how I would have survived these challenges without Jesus as my constant companion. I remember once, after a miscarriage when I was deep in grief just walking down a sidewalk with my hand in my pocket clenched and imagining that I was holding Christ's hand wherever I went. Perhaps he appeared to me when I was so young because he knew I would need him so much to make it through this life. For whatever reason, I am so grateful for his friendship and love. I hope that everyone will come to realize that he walks beside all of us, sustaining and guiding us to his love. Thanks be to God.

Vara Sue Tamminga