I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer, specifically the issue of why I enjoy it more now than I did several years ago.
I don’t want to go through my entire prayer history here, since I already did so in my post, Me and Prayer. Suffice it to say that my prayer life has taken a variety of forms: dry and satisfying, feeling God and not feeling God, using the Bible and not using the Bible, transformative and ineffective.
I’m trying to identify what made a good prayer time good. At first, I thought it was reading the Bible and commenting on what I read. Before I did that on a regular basis, my quiet times were dead and aimless. But then I remembered: there were times when I had dead, uninspiring quiet times while I was reading Scripture, so I’m not sure if the Bible reading component is what makes a quiet time good, at least not all of the time.
But the deal is this: Right now, I’m not reading the Bible for my daily quiet time. After I finished the Protestant canon, I went on to the deuterocanonical writings, then early Christian writings (e.g., Ignatius, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas), then the Koran, and now the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, which I will finish today. My next stop will be the Mishnah. I still read the Bible, however, only not in my daily quiet time. I do a daily Bible reading, and my weekly quiet time goes through a book of the Bible.
In my daily quiet times, there are times when I talk about the text I am reading, but there are many times when I do not. Still, my quiet times are pretty good. I can usually think of something to say, and, when I can’t, I just remain silent in case God wants to tell me something (not that I’m sure he actually does that). I enjoy talking to God about life, movies, shows, personal frustrations, etc. And an hour of prayer usually makes me feel better when I’m in a bad mood.
But I fear that my prayer times will return to the way they were before I used the Bible: dry, seeking inspiration but never quite getting it, hungry, unsatisfying, aimless. What will guarantee that my prayer times will not go in that direction? God? God didn’t seem to be present during my bad quiet times!
Why are my quiet times good now even when I don’t use the Bible, whereas they weren’t as good back then? I’d like to identify the secret ingredient so I can use it and never have a bad quiet time.
Maybe one factor is that I’m a deeper thinker now than I was then. I’ve been reading the Bible and feeding my soul for years, so I have things now upon which I can draw. That wasn’t as true back then.
“God” or some form of inspiration seems to permeate my quiet times right now. How can I be sure that this won’t go away?