Lent 2024, Day 31: Prayer.

I started reading the excellent book, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer by Tyler Stanton, which if you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow for free. Here’s an excerpt:

Already today, before you read these words, plenty of people have prayed. Catholics have recited the poetic prayers of the historic saints. Muslims have spread out their rugs, bowed their foreheads to the ground, and begun chanting the Qur’an in unison. Jews have written pleas to Yahweh on small pieces of paper, rolled them up, and wedged them into Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. Buddhists have meditatively emptied themselves, searching for an enlightened state of self-forgetfulness. Tibetan monks have spun a wheel that holds the wadded-up pages of prayer journals, like a game of divine roulette. And somewhere, a staunch, convinced atheist in a hospital waiting room has buried his head in his hands and muttered a few desperate words to a God he doesn’t even believe is there to listen. And all that was today, before you read these words.

If you are a churchgoing Christian in the West, you’ve become a sociological anomaly. The Western church is declining in essentially every statistical measure. Still, in a society losing interest in and growing suspicious of the church, prayer isn’t going anywhere. According to reliable Gallup research, more Americans will pray in a given week than will exercise, drive a car, have sex, or go to work.

In an increasing post-Christian America, nearly half the population still admits praying daily, a number that dwarfs the nation’s church attendance. Any way you measure it, prayer is bigger than the church (and it’s not close).

Everybody prays. Everybody always has. And there’s no end in sight. Prayer seems to be instinctive, a part of human nature. Primitive peoples and enlightened Westerners, rural homesteaders and urban-dwelling professionals, stay-at-home moms and touring musicians, insecure artists and ruthless investors, doubting atheists and devout creationists—they’re all praying. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.” We pray. We can’t help it.

Prayer invites you to learn to listen to God before speaking, to ask like a child in your old age, to scream your questions in an angry tirade, to undress yourself in vulnerable confession, and to be loved—completely and totally loved, in spite of everything.

Buy or borrow the book here.

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