I read something today in Practice Resurrection, (Eugene Peterson) that helped me see another element in prayer. It was about the struggle we feel with prayer sometimes in our culture. It’s the struggle or uncomfortable feeling when it comes to praying out loud or just praying at all – when the mind flashes in and out of “praying” in a volley of thinking, “This is dumb; I feel dumb; I feel like I’m talking to myself…”
Peterson brought something to my table: essentially, we struggle with prayer because the language we’re mostly accustomed to in our culture is an impersonal language: a language that describes, analyzes, dissects, and then reports.
Praying, we know, is a posture of relationship, expression in conversation. I wondered, as I read, that our struggle in prayer is that we’re so used to a typically impersonal language and that just doesn’t work in a posture of prayer. Prayer and praying go together (obviously) and both are deeply personal: personal action (praying) and personal words (prayer). Perhaps we’ve felt so strange in prayer because we started prayer off with a recitation of facts, like we’re reading a small town newspaper of our day to God, telling the details. (Sure, God loves the details.) But what about the deeper side of those details – the way you reacted, how you saw a glimpse of God in action, how you felt, what you thought?
I imagine that pairing relational language with praying (which is relational in nature, like talking to your mother over coffee) might just make it seem more natural, more put together in it’s expression.