Patricia Hofer

How does a person pray–seriously

Have you ever wondered what serious praying should include?

My experience is that as often as we may talk about praying, we really don’t get around to it that much, at least not in the devoted way we think we should. …Maybe we have gotten the idea that real praying involves an earnestness that we don’t have. Or we may think it requires hours of concentrated effort, that we must grind on and on about something in order to get God’s attention or to prove our righteousness.

Are these the things that make effective prayers? Soren Kierkegaard doesn’t think so. He writes: “The earthly minded person thinks and imagines that when he prays, the important thing, the thing he must concentrate upon, is that God should hear what he is praying for.” Then later he continues, “… the true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears, who hears what God is asking for” (Provocations 345).

And, though this can be done at anytime and anywhere, most of my serious listening opportunities are found in alone hours of the early morning when I can step back from my life a little and sit quietly. Sometimes I’m blessed with an hour and sometimes only ten minutes. But what I’ve learned is that these moments for listening are the growing times, the surprising times. To start my day listening makes me available to the Lord all day long.

That way, when I tell someone “I’ll pray for you,” I don’t feel the need to give the Lord a lot of information. The open lines of communication reassure me that the Lord is operating within and beside those who are in need. And I trust them to his care… In the early mornings and whenever I can, I open my heart to Christ and listen. As Mother Teresa says: “Perfect prayer does not consist in many words, but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus” (4). (Yielding to Wonder, chapter 17)

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