Prayer often means a set time for talking to God or offering up a specific request to God, a ritual or discipline that is daily—praying over a Biblical passage, for instance. Prayer can be a one-way form of communication sometimes when we toss prayers God’s way and a two-way street at other times, especially when we pray in silence lifting up what is on our hearts and minds and then sit in God’s presence. As I see it, prayer is a discreet activity directed at God, whether formal, informal, aloud or silent, while prayerfulness is a way of living a life, open to whatever God is saying at any moment in our lives. Today I want to explore this expanded definition of prayer, prayerfulness.
Prayerfulness is a twenty-four-hour-a-day openness to the Spirit‘s whispering throughout our waking and sleeping hours. Of course throughout the night, the attunement to God is unconscious only to emerge into our consciousness as we awaken. Interruptions to our prayerfulness, of course, do happen—a phone call, or pressing request or anything, but, almost before we know it, we’ve stepped back into the prayerful attention to God’s voice within us.
When we are attentive to God twenty-four/seven, everything that happens and everyone we see, everything we think and feel becomes an opportunity to listen for what we are to do or say. We want to see/hear/sense what God is asking of us in the moment before us, because that Voice is our guide for living. I’ve suggested before that maybe God tries to get our attention some five hundred times a day. When we’re in this prayerful state we are more apt to hear God’s attempts to communicate with us: “Say this now to ___.” “Do this task first.” “It’s not yet the right time to do that.” “Read now.” “Call _____.” And so on. How does God communicate to you? Softly, whispering? Sensing, a felt urge or ache? Intuitively? Other ways? How does the Spirit communicate urgency or compassion, direction or correction? The more we assume this attitude of prayerfulness, the more we are attuned to what God is offering to us in this moment. Sometimes when I sit down to work at my computer, nothing is working properly. It occurs to me that what I intended to do is not to be done now, so I go on to other things. Then when I come back to that task, everything works properly! Is that God with a message for me? I think so.
As we become more prayerful, relaxing into this practice, we are seeking God’s guidance in everything about our day. We can see that this is a later development in the Life of the Spirit, because it is a giant step out of the family and culture we grew up in and a natural step towards more depth in the relationship with God, moving towards living in the kingdom and adhering to its needs and requirements. At this point God is the only guide for our lives. All other voices including the ego are not suddenly silenced—I’m not sure they ever go away(I wish!!), but they are diminished in power over us and we have had enough experience to know that God’s voice is the one we want to follow. To follow it means to grow in integrity and wholeness and love and compassion and into the fullness of who we were created to be.
With prayerfulness throughout our days we live into the gifts of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”[Galatians 5:22 NSRV] It also means that we are rather constantly lifting up our voice to the Spirit: “Help me with this!” “Thank you for that help or this person in my life.” “Amazing!” “It’s so beautiful!” and more. We are rather constantly reaching out in gratitude, asking for support or guidance, offering up our failings, expressing awe and more. It’s a constant, well-worn path between us and God; the longer and more wholeheartedly it has gone on, the less effort we have to put into it to maintain it. Sometimes we hear words, sometimes it’s a felt sense or an inclination, sometimes it’s an affirming dream or an intriguing dream that points out a way to proceed. Spirit’s voice may come through other people with insistent suggestions for us. And there are probably many more ways that I have not experienced or recognized. I believe these are the calls of a deep-soul self within that is also God’s voice within.
The calls offer us authenticity, integrity, inspiration, help, comfort and much, much more. Followed over a long period of time we begin to really live, incorporating more and more of who we are, going more and more in the direction of our true, created selves and towards how we have been designed to give of ourselves to life and how we should live.
Prayerfulness means living in a state of grace, where we find just what we need when we need it, we are supported in whatever we are doing or suffering, we are loved always, and we have the companionship of the Holy Spirit always. Here’s a small illustration from a recent overnight trip to Connecticut from Charlotte for a funeral of my husband’s favorite aunt. My daughter and I were flying through Cleveland to Hartford the afternoon before the services. We had a half-hour to make the connection which concerned me some, but I relaxed, thinking that God’s either going to make this happen or not. We arrived ½ hour early and at the gate next door to the one we needed!! I was astonished! And grateful! What a gift!
I believe that we are called to prayerfulness, to leave the anxiety built in to this 21st century world behind, to live as our true selves, to put God first above all else, to have the Spirit front and center in our lives, to really trust God with our lives. Beyond belief in God, beyond appearances, beyond thinking we’re in charge of our lives, and into living the life that Jesus modeled: he demonstrated time and again that it was his prayerfulness that connected him to God’s will for him and that enabled him to keep choosing the tougher road because of living securely in the presence of God.