After 18 years of meeting with people, reading their emails, and talking to them after sermons, my experience is that most people would like to pray, or pray more, but they shrug their shoulders because they don’t even know where to start. Some are sure they must be doing it wrong, because they didn’t feel like anything was happening, and so they quit. Or, having had it with all of the formulas (like A.C.T.S.), some rely only on their own spontaneous thoughts to guide their prayers, and those thoughts so quickly run to grocery lists and the kids soccer schedule, that prayer is simply an exercise in feeling bad about yourself for not being able to focus.
We need some help.
Over the last two years, I have found it so helpful to be guided by the prayers of others. As a person who uses a lot of words every day, I noticed that when I came to prayer guided only by my spontaneous thoughts, I quickly became discouraged. I was stuck; I felt like using anybody else’s prayers wasn’t authentic enough, that they didn’t count (it was somebody else’s prayers!), but I didn’t have many words when I approached God.
And God met me in my lack of words by providing me with some beautiful prayers, written by others. I use a prayer book now, and it feels like a soft chair, into which I can lean all the way back. Prayer feels restful again. I’m not trying so hard, and I’m not making it so comlicated.
This was one of the prayers last week:
“Go forth with the calm assurance that the unparalleled love of God surrounds, upholds, and preserves your life.”
Recently, my new friends at Bondfire Books sent me a copy of a new prayer book using prayers and quotes by Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors (now deceased). It’s called Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer by Brennan Manning with John Blase. I’ve started using it, and I love it.
The layout is very simple: Every entry includes a short Scripture, a quote from Brennan, and a corresponding prayer. There are morning and evening entries for each day. For Brennan, it was all about remembering that God loves us as we are and not as we should be. And I have found the farther I get along in life, the more I need to remember that.
Here is an example of an entry:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” —Isaiah 49:15-16
Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone. The mere presence of that special someone in a crowded room brings an inward sigh of relief and a strong sense of feeling safe. How would you respond if I asked you this question: “Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?” If you could answer with gut-level honesty, “Oh, yes, my Abba is very fond of me,” you would experience a serene compassion for yourself that approximates the meaning of tenderness. —Abba’s Child
Dear Abba, I’ve come to the place where I’m letting You love me more each day, but I still struggle with letting You like me. I realize that has much more to do with me than with You, not to mention my ongoing cycle of attraction to tenderness, then repulsion, then back again. Thank you for your still, small advances toward me displaying that yes, my Abba is very fond of me! Please help my unbelief. I want to rest safe in Your arms.
Dear Abba is only available by e-book, and it’s only $3.99. You can read it in your mobile device, or on your computer with Kindle’s free app. If you love Brennan Manning, or if you need a place to start in prayer, I’d encourage you to buy it here, and spend 5-10 minutes a day resting in prayer, instead of making it so complicated.