Preface of the booklet on prayer I wrote – in search for the essence of prayer

If you asked me right now what prayer is to me…

Being quiet. No words. Or a few words. Maybe a single sentence. But most of all: to be still, to be restful, to be in touch with my own heart, and the heart of God.

I’ve grown a little tired of all these words that I thought should be heard – audibly or in my heart – in my prayers. Above all, prayer has become less: fewer words, fewer conditions, less of “how it should be”.

Now I understand that this does not say everything about praying. Of course, praying is also formulating beautiful sentences. That you really take time to pour out your heart to God. That you ask God a lot because Jesus once said: “pray, and it will be given to you.” That you worship the Lord with words, many words until you are out of words, and all that remains is only deep wonderment, beyond words.

And still… More and more often I think: the description “praying is talking to God” does not do justice to what prayer is. Right away, it makes prayer seem so wordy and palaverous. And the ecclesiastical convention I inhabit, the culture of Protestantism, can be so verbose. Oftentimes there is so little silence, so little space, so little emptiness too. So much prose and so little poetry.

I wrote this with the intention of providing inspiration, so that whoever reads it and starts working with it will say: ‘I feel like praying again.’

The word count of this little booklet still confounds me a little. Is that appropriate? Part of the answer may be that these words are necessary to help you in using fewer words to pray. That does not happen from one moment to the next. You need a new kind of confidence, something I am still discovering myself. Talk is cheap, it’s so much harder to be quiet, to be calm, or just to be.

The quantity of words also has to do with something else. I think it is good to forgo your own words for a while. I find it tiring to have to use my own words and phrases to pray each time. I make more and more use of words other people conceived, spoke, wrote down. I don’t have to come up with it myself. So many people preceded me already on the path of prayer.

And last but not least, the Bible is a prayer book. It contains a lot of prayers. It tells a lot about prayer. And you can pray many parts of the Bible. Indeed, not just read but also pray. Pray the Bible. 

Just get started. Incidentally, over the years I have learned ‘getting started’ is a pretty important thing. Because starting something is difficult. Getting started is an art in itself. If you haven’t prayed for a while, starting to pray again is quite difficult. Maybe because you feel guilty. Maybe because you feel like you can’t. Maybe because you just don’t feel like praying. I would like to encourage you. Just start. Start over. For instance, pray the phrase: “I want to pray.”

Did you say that sentence? Out loud? Or in your heart? Then you have already prayed. “I want to pray.” That desire is already a prayer. 

I pray that the Spirit will help you and help me. “Spirit, make me want to pray again.”

Back to lesson 7

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