Prayer is a unique activity of the human race. As far back as we can discover the simplest, most primitive human beings believed in a greater power. Perhaps a great being who lived in the heavens to whom they could speak. So people have prayed down through the ages – it is almost an instinctive thing to do.
There are three basic forms of prayer. The first is vocal prayer, a prayer of the lips. It is simply talking to God. This is the heart of Christian prayer – talking to God about our needs and his desires.
When the disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray”, Jesus gave them a simple form of words to say out loud. He told them six things, and everyone involved asking. The “Our Father” or “Lord’s Prayer” highlighted three things God wanted them to ask him and three things they would want to ask for themselves. It was speaking a prayer; it was asking. It was vocal prayer.
The second is meditative prayer or meditation. This is a prayer which forms pictures, ponders their meaning and reflects on God and his dealings with us. The mind seeks understanding and insight. In meditation, the lips are quiet while the mind is active.
I find the best way to engage in meditative prayer is to use a passage from the Gospels and, using a few verses that paint a picture of Jesus, be in that scene personally. I see myself sitting with Jesus and soaking up his presence. The Psalms are another great biblical source for meditative prayer. Besides the Scriptures, I have found using a Christian icon, a lit candle or a cross, a great help or focus for meditation.
Thirdly there is contemplative prayer or contemplation. Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the heart and will that reaches out to God’s presence. The lips and the mind both come to rest. Someone has said, “While mediation is us looking at God, contemplation is God looking at us”.
God delights in the companionship of his people. We remember that at the baptism of Jesus God spoke from heaven and said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). It is a wonderful thing that God wants to look at us also and say, “This is my son, my daughter, whom I love and with whom I am pleased”. In this simple act of gazing at the Lord and the Lord looking in love at us, the heart reaches out in wordless prayer, and human will seek to be one with the will of God.
The sixteenth century Christian mystic Teresa of Avila wrote a book entitled The Interior Castle. She encouraged us to think of our soul as a castle formed of a single diamond or transparent crystal containing many rooms. At the centre is the principal chamber in which God and our soul hold their most secret, intimate conversations.
God can indeed be known all around us and in our inner selves. The Scripture says that “In him, we live, we move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He dwells within our hearts, though often too deep within and beyond our awareness.
The disciples did not ask Jesus about techniques. They said, “Lord teach us to pray”. And Jesus said, “Yes I will. When you pray say ‘Abba’ – say ‘Dad’. Jesus said that prayer is not a method, it is not a technique, it is not a ritual – it’s a relationship.
SOURCE: On Fire By Major Frank Daniels