I led our congregation in the prayers of the people. I gave a short talk on prayer to introduce it. I talked about my struggles in prayer. I said I was not very good at it even after so many years as a pastor. Being a pastor does not make it any easier to pray; there is no "direct line" from the Rev. to God like some people believe. Pastors have more practice in public praying and they can sound more eloquent some times but eloquence does not automatically make a prayer good. Many pastors like many people find themselves dissatisfied with their prayers. They should go longer, deeper, be more spirit filled, and effortless. Instead, praying can be like pulling teeth except when you're done you don't even have the teeth to show for it. So, I went on to share a little of how I deal with my feelings of unfulfilled praying. Afterwards, one of our members thanked me for my words and told me he felt like he he had been in a prayer drought for like ten years! I am certain other church leaders could say the same.
I shared some stuff from a book I had been reading, Long Wandering Prayer, by David Hansen. It was written in 2001 and is out of print. That's too bad because it is a good book on prayer by another pastor who struggles with it. The book, while short, is wandering like the praying he proposes in it. He is all over the place but it is the kind of book I like. It's like a hike in the woods when if you are paying attention you can uncover all sorts of cool things. Hansen suggests that maybe we try too hard; we have ideas of prayer that are more about how we are doing than what God is doing. We evaluate them by how we feel about them when we don't have a clue what God was thinking. Hansen confesses he has a hard time sitting in one place and praying. He can manage about ten minutes of that. So, he often wanders: hiking, fishing, walking around town or the church facility. As he wanders, he prays. As Hansen gets visual clues from his surroundings he prays for them. Some people might say he is goofing off but he says he is praying. I have found that praying when you are not "praying" can make for some of the best prayer times. Maybe that is what Paul meant when he talked about praying without ceasing. When I force myself to sit, or attend a long prayer meeting with what seems like interminable prayer lists, I become bored and agitated. But, when I walk and pray the time almost flies by. When I wake in the middle of the night and pray instead of tossing, I have found a better use of time. When I take out the Psalms and pray through a few I can find words for my prayers that I usually don't come up with on my own.
I know I need to pray and I want to pray. Left to my own devices I don't do too well. With the help of books like Hansen's I am encouraged to try less hard and actually pray more. With Scriptures like the Lord's Prayer and the Psalms as mentors, I can pray better.