Is There a "Right" Way to Pray?
I grew up in a distinctly non-litergical environment. We believed that wrote or written prayers were the fastest way to vain and empty repetition. The only exception seemed to be the Lord's Prayer, which was OK so long as you didn't repeat it too often! Reading prayers written by other people was viewed with suspicion while spontaneous, 'heart-felt' prayers were the highest form of authenticity.
But a few years ago I picked up a great book by Scot McKnight called "Praying with the Church : Following Jesus, Daily, Hourly, Today" which challenged my growing up experiences. In it, this renowned New Testament scholar makes the point very clearly that Jesus himself followed the Jewish practice of prayer three times a day - morning, mid-day and evening. And further to this, when we choose to join in this rhythm, that we are joining the global Christian church in approaching the throne of grace with a sense of unity and perspicacity that doesn't come when we simply pray spontaneously (which usually means whenever we feel like it or remember to do it).
McKnight contends that "the secret to soul formation created by sacred rhythms emerges from focusing on what is most central to the faith and letting it seep into the inner workings of our hearts by reciting it often enough to keep it in front of us" (49). Personally, I've begun to experiment with this using a book called "Common Prayer". It's a great resource because it slows me down, it lifts me above how I am feeling that day and it gives new depth and resonance to my prayers. I think I'm gradually un-learning to pray only spontaneously and learning that "time spent with the prayers of others can teach us to pray both alone in the church and together with the Church" (7).
How about you... what things are you learning and what things might you need to un-learn about prayer?