I remember hearing a pastor say, "to be honest I don't pray that much."  These words surprised me because they were said by a pastor for whom I have great respect.  He is a very competent and compassionate pastor and a great preacher.  His statement about the lack of prayer also surprised me because it was said as a matter of fact not confession.  His assumption was that most pastors are active religious leaders and not contemplatives.  But I am becoming more convinced that in order to be active leaders in the world we need also to be contemplatives at prayer daily.

Follow Your Heart July 2009 I wish that I could say this balance of adequate prayer and action has been my daily practice for the past twenty-two years of ordained ministry as a Presbyterian minister.  But it hasn't. I have learned about the importance of prayer over time. The practice of prayer is essential, but too many people live active lives without adequate time for prayer–even pastors.  Maybe I should say especially pastors.  I confess that there have been some years when I have allowed myself to become too busy and too fragmented by my daily tasks.  I didn't take enough time to pray daily.

In contrast to our busyness, Jesus is our positive example.  Jesus prayed often and regularly took long periods of time for prayer.  Dallas Willard in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, concludes that if Jesus took 40 days to pray in the wilderness it might be good for each of us regularly to devote 3 or 4 days for prayer.  It's a good question to ask:  if Jesus needed so much time for prayer, why do we think we can sail through life and ministry without taking adequate time for the practice of prayer?

What is your practice of prayer? Desmond Tutu writes, "Prayer and holy words can also bring us back to our love and our recognition of our connectedness.  St. Paul tells us to pray unceasingly and many Christians have used the Jesus Prayer as a way to create inner stillness at times of anger and turmoil. The form of the prayer has varied, but the most common form is, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Some have suggested simply saying, Lord Jesus, have mercy, or repeating a verse from the Psalms, a quote from the Bible, or another prayer that is meaningful and significant to you and your beliefs."  (God Has a Dream, Page 80)

Ultimately, prayer is the best way to enjoy God's presence in our life.  Prayer is the way to stay connected to God and, as Desmond Tutu writes, prayer helps us recognize our connectedness to one another and all of God's good creation.  Prayer isn't an escape from our responsibilities or a way to run away from our problems, rather it is a conversation with our Maker and Sustainer about how to more fully engage the realities of life.  

I remember hearing that prayer is the language of love.  Prayer is, sometimes, speaking words to God but it is also listening.  Prayer can simply be sitting in stillness before God–without words.  Prayer is about turning our attention towards God.  The practice of prayer is an opportunity to make each day a time to partner with God.  To be a person of prayer is to know that you are not alone.  God is with us.