Friday, April 18, 2008

How to Pray...among other things

I'm relearning some things. Here's a current list of what I'm relearning.
  • How to be a husband. I'm often not aware of how my actions affect (negatively) my wife and the other people around me. When I'm focused, I'm focused. But that can mean I leave someone with a less dominant personality standing by the side holding my coat. No fair. Here's a list I came across several years that inspired me to be a better husband.
  • How to plan. Not doing it right creates chaos. For instance, this week my wife's tire blew as she was pulling out of the driveway on her way with the boys to Atlanta. I didn't plan the tire rotation properly, thus creating conditions for said blow out. (see above thing I'm learning). Note to self: have the oil changed at a place that also does tire rotations. I've been using these guys, and they don't. Regardless, thank God for Fix-a-Flat! The stuff is a miracle.
  • How to think of others and remember what's important to them. It's an expression of caring.
  • How to pray. Henri Nouwen says we learn to pray by praying. I've been doing that as plainly as I can lately. That's meant a decrease in the amount of flowery language and emotional content of my prayers. It seems in low-church world, flowery language and emotional-laden speech often qualifies as "good" prayer. Now I happen to like flowery language and emotionally laden speech--I feel warm and fuzzy afterwards. It's just that I've often left prayer times wondering why (a) we did all the talking and (b) we told God a bunch of stuff he already knows. Maybe the flowery language and emotional speech will be replaced in time, maybe it won't. For now, I'm okay with honesty, sincerity and plain speech. And regardless, I know I am connecting at a deeper level with God. This is how Jean-Nicholas Grou (b. 1730) describes it in his excellent book How to Pray:

BlockquoteIn this matter people generally treat God as though he were a man, and believe that he cannot understand a prayer unless every detail of its requests is explained to him. They prepare carefully their intention, have special formulas for each act of prayer, mention individuals by name and imagine that if the least detail escapes their memory God cannot supply it. O souls of little faith and little knowledge of God, your intentions have reached him before you have opened your mouth; no sooner are they in your heart than he sees them, and why must you torment yourselves by explaining them to him? You desire every spiritual blessing both for yourselves and for those whom you love; how should he who inspired these desires not know that you have them?"

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