Pathways to Prayer

by David Moffett-Moore

PrayerCharlie Brown’s  Snoopy likes to dance, chanting, “To dance is to live, to live is to dance!” and he makes a convincing case. He dances with vigor and abandonment. Snoopy throws his whole being into the dance; in return, the dance expresses all that Snoopy is and hopes for.  I like to dance, but I could never make a living at it!
I suppose arguments could be made for other elements of life to be full expressions of life. I’ve heard the saying, “Some people eat to live, some live to eat.” Musicians focus the wholeness of their being on the song; athletes focus their energy and attention on the game. My wife Becki loves to garden. For a recent retreat, each person was to bring something that would identify the core of their being; Becki took her garden gloves.
I want to make the argument that prayer can be the dance of our soul, the expression of our life, the wholeness of our being, the focus of our energy and attention, and identify the core of our being. We are born praying; the cry of the newborn is the cry of life. As it is more normal and natural for us to breathe than to not breathe, so it is more normal and natural for us to pray than to not pray. We may hold our breath for a time, but our bodies will soon return to breathing. We may hold our prayers for a time, but soon our spirits will return to their patterns of prayer. As the body must breathe, so the spirit must pray.
We pray as infants, “I want. I hurt. I’m frightened.” We pray as children, “God bless mommy; God bless daddy.” We pray earnestly as youth, when we first realize our conscience, “I’m sorry.” Anne Lamont suggests three prayers that are most basic and universal, “Help, Thanks, Wow.”  Meister Eckhart claims, “If the only prayer you would say in your whole life is “Thanks,” that would be enough.” C.S. Lewis confesses, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking or sleeping. I pray because it doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
We can grow in prayer. We can become more mature, more familiar, more experienced, yet all this is a natural development of our native intuition to pray. Over the centuries countless books have been written on prayer, describing it, what it is and how it works, and offering helps for us to grow in our experience and understanding of prayer.  I have added my own humble supplement.
My contribution to the Topical Line Drive series, entitled “Pathways to Prayer,” begins with this limitation to its intended scope, “This little volume is not a great treatise on the meaning and purpose of prayer, nor is it a scientific investigation on the function of prayer, nor a psychological examination of prayer’s impact on our lives. It is a simple little devotional intended to offer encouragement for those wanting to grow in their prayer lives, with some suggestions on how to do so. I pray that it may be helpful.”
To one who was born to pray, from one who hungers to pray, I invite you to read it and join with me in the pilgrimage of prayer.
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