We are creatures of habit. We crave and create meaningful patterns to help us order our days. This dynamic operates not only in everyday living (brushing our teeth, kissing a loved one goodbye each morning, etc) but also as we walk out our faith in Jesus Christ.
Our Difficulties with Prayer
Prayer is an essential part of that faith, communing with the God we love. Yet, so many Christians experience frustration in maintaining the rhythms of prayer life. Part of our struggle is that we lack a suitable form for praying. Many of us have picked up the idea that only spontaneous prayers are authentic, that we can’t use the words of someone else to honestly pray to God. We figure prayer should be like musical improvisation, something spontaneous and free. Of course, only the most accomplished musicians can improvise, after they’ve mastered the musical forms and structures that set in place the foundation for improvisation. Likewise in prayer, we find freedom and depth in our communion with God as we learn the words and forms that help us commune with God. For most of us, we need to develop an adequate way to carry our prayers to God.
But there’s more to our struggle with the practice of prayer. The simple truth is we’ve oriented our lives around other practices. We’ve already conformed to our living-to-work deadlines, the pace of parenting, school schedules, media rhythms, and soccer practices. These can be good, and yet the pattern of this world can sabotage a life of prayer—and to live without prayer is to be deformed, no longer conformed to Christ.
But all is not lost. Part of God’s salvation work in us is to conform our lives to the likeness of Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29). Following Jesus, involves finding and living a new way of life. Conversion is a change of mind as well as practice, a new direction and new habit of being.
Living as a disciple of Jesus opens up a whole new world, the kingdom of God. How do we step into and inhabit the kingdom of God? We need a habitus, a Jesus way of being, composed of regular habits and practices that give intentional and embodied shape to our living.
Practicing Prayer Differently
One of the most basic Christian practices as we live into God’s kingdom and live out the way of Jesus is that of a regular prayer rhythm. Seeking God’s Face is a guide to developing and practicing the habit of daily prayer through a fixed, common prayer.
For many of us, prayer is a clearly defined activity—it’s what you do when you close your eyes, fold your hands, and silently speak to God. But Christian prayer can be a far richer conversation with God, a back-and-forth exchange of speaking and listening through Scripture, quiet listening, and personal address.
Using the “Daily Office”
For centuries, Christians have practiced a form of prayer called a “daily office,” in which they pray at fixed times throughout the day, as a way to include prayer in the rhythm of their daily lives.
Seeking God’s Face uses daily fixed and common prayers.
Fixed — That the prayers are fixed means they are set prayers and Scriptures to be prayed at a certain time during the day (that’s yours to figure out). At some point in our heavily scheduled lives, we choose to set aside time from our activity to commune with God. By setting aside a fixed time to pray, we interrupt our regular rhythms, reminding ourselves that our lives are oriented around Jesus Christ and that the words of Scripture, and others, can lead us deeper into communion with God.
Common — Our culture is so deeply formed by an individualistic ethos, which has imprinted our faith as well. We’re pretty much convinced we can follow Jesus solo, that our individual spiritual experience is paramount to our faith. A practice of common prayer, sharing words with other Jesus followers (who may not be physically present but are praying the same Scripture and prayers on the same day), roots us more deeply in Christian community. Common prayer sets aside our privatized faith and reminds us that we can’t do this alone, that we find ourselves in the company of others who share this journey with Jesus.
How We Benefit
A practice of intentionally setting aside time and space presses the pause button on the blur of busyness to seek God’s face. It expresses, in an embodied way, our intention to live life in the presence of God. In our prayers, we bring our lives to God and listen for the living voice of God in the Bible, allowing it to read our lives.
This is all for a larger purpose. You don’t practice scales simply for the joy of hearing them; you practice to play beautiful music. We practice prayer so that we might know and follow Jesus, which is, of course, to be out in the world, engaged in God’s mission. That task is sometimes difficult and demanding, and a regular practice of prayer keeps us alive and well while we serve the world in the name of Jesus.
Our hope is for Seeking God’s Face to be part of a resurgence in God’s mission, to help catalyze a new order of sent Jesus-people, shaped by God and living out the good news of the kingdom in their local communities. I’m praying and hoping that a renewed practice of prayer, along with many other of the Christian spiritual practices, will be conduits for the explosive power of the gospel, for a renewed commitment and energy for Christ and his cause.