To Pray

“I know it takes time to develop a life of prayer: set-aside, disciplined, deliberate time. It isn’t accomplished on the run, nor by offering prayers from a pulpit or at a hospital bedside. I know I can’t be busy and pray at the same time. I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed. In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; to God than to my clamoring ego. Usually, for that to happen there must be a deliberate withdrawal from the noise of the day, a disciplined detachment from the insatiable self.”

—Eugene Peterson

Can we be honest for a second? Sometimes it can be really hard to pray. The apostle Paul’s encouragement to “pray without ceasing” can be intimidating. There are days that we are so swamped by our list of things to do or the demands of our jobs, that we don’t have time to eat lunch, let alone to pray without ceasing. But I think Peterson, in the above quote, is on to something. He’s talking about the prayer life of a minister (confession: it can be hard for us too!), but he can teach all of us.

First, he reminds us that it takes time to develop into a person of prayer. The transformation is measured in months and years. It seldom happens over night. It also requires some time in our day, and some intentional effort, some hard work. That is why it’s called a spiritual discipline, after all.

Secondly, he reminds us that while it’s hard to be busy, and pray, it’s possible to be active and pray. Busyness in this context is that frantic, always hurried, always distracted, “There’s something more productive I could be doing!” state we all know so well. Being active means doing what needs done, but keeping it all in perspective. When things are in perspective, it’s easier to develop a life a prayer.

Lastly, and I think most importantly, the thing that ties this all together is the simple admonishment to pay attention to God. In our distraction and busyness, or perhaps even our spiritual apathy, we miss the gentle presence of God in our lives. To pray means to live a life in which we open ourselves up to the purposes of God.

—Brad Schrum

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