It all started with one sentence. It was that sentence that changed my prayer life forever.
Ever since I became a follower of Christ, I was told I needed to pray, but rarely was I told how to pray. The only type of prayer I was aware of was what’s called “intercessory” prayer—praying on behalf of others and yourself especially in times of need. I usually prayed when I or someone I knew was facing a problem.
It wasn’t until I attended a seminar on prayer that I was given a better direction on how to pray. While there I learned how to pray for an hour a day by dividing 60 minutes into twelve five-minute segments. I would spend five minutes at a time focusing on a different aspect of prayer such as worship, thanksgiving, intercession and so on. That method deeply impacted my prayer life, but it had a great flaw… it was very mechanical. I was constantly looking at my watch to make sure I’ve spent enough time on each subject.
Years later while reading a book about George Müller (A Christian evangelist and the director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England) I came across a remark he made about his prayer life. “I read the Bible until I feel God’s pleasure and then I pray.” I didn’t know what that meant but began incorporating the Bible in my prayers, especially the Psalms. I would make the authors’ words my prayer.
But all this changed in 1995.
In 1995, I had a very unusual experience with God when, for the first time, I understood and experienced what the Psalmist meant when he said,
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
It was in late 1998 in my Early Church History class, when I heard my professor, Mel Robeck, in passing say, “And then there were the Desert Fathers and Mothers who went to the desert to do spiritual warfare, but NOT the way we do it today.” For various reasons, that one sentence started my journey into what’s known as, Meditative/Contemplative Prayer, Divine Reading, or Lectio Divina, which is one of the oldest methods of studying the Bible the Church has used in the last 1,500 years.
In around the fourth century when persecutions of Christians had ceased, as Henry Nouwen says, the early monks went into the deserts of Egypt to “escape a tempting conformity to the world.” To prevent the world from shaping them into its own image, they followed three steps, fleeing from the world, being silent, and praying always. In the years since, through the above steps, I’ve learned how to use the Scripture as a means to commune with Christ and experience God’s presence.
Do you desire to draw deeper with your Creator? Do you long and thirst to know your Lord more intimately? I believe the answer for most of us is in silence and solitude. It is learning to be still, (in spirit, body, thoughts, mind, and soul) so we can hear our God and, in a deeper sense, know who is the Divine.