“Painting cannot be taught. It can only be found.” – Pablo Picasso
This is true of prayer as well, I think.
A life of prayer is something we find one day, and add a little bit more to the next. The brush picks up a dab of paint, and lays it childlike on the canvas. It feels awkward at first, our hand too heavy or too light with the colors. But it starts. It is hard work in the beginning, for our society places far more value on work and “doing” than on life-critical things like rest, reflection, and prayer.
Perhaps the real genesis of a life of prayer is a recognized dissatisfaction with our own prayer life. We read 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and know we are not praying without ceasing. Perhaps one morning, to start a new year or a new season, we forcibly exhale a yearning prayer: “Uh, Lord, would help me pray more, please?” And then, with a smidgen of color on the end of our brush, we pray. We lay short requests or thanksgivings at the feet of Jesus, raising prayers as things or people come to mind. Over time, it becomes easier, and a pattern grows. We feel a gentle pull, like a Great Dancer is grabbing our hand and lifting us to the dance floor.
Prayer begins to bubble out of us, like a small stream once stopped by a pile of rocks, but now pushing out in all sorts of places. A life of prayer is like that, most often bubbling to heaven without a lot of conscious fore-thought. Unbidden almost, like tapping your toe when great music comes on.
In Living Prayer, author Robert Benson writes about discovering the rhythm of prayer in his own own life:
“I did not mean for all of this to happen to me. Or any of it, for that matter. I am still astonished by it all, and still a little afraid of it actually. I only started out to put a little formal devotion into my life, a kind of crash course in organized prayer. At best, I had this vague notion of wanting to be a person whose first words in the morning were a prayer, a prayer that rose up in me as I rose up from bed. I am not even very certain where that notion came from. But since the day it entered my head, nothing in life is the same. Everything has changed–utterly, completely, irrevocably…Somewhere an ancient rhythm began to resonate in me, calling me, compelling me to join in the general Dance.”
Can you hear the music? Now is the perfect time for quick toe-tapping prayer. Amen.