As I’ve been reflecting on my own writing and prayer life after the retreat, I’ve been realizing how slow I am to apply the same lessons from writing to my prayer life.
It’s easy to see that we need help with writing. An editor can spot what we can’t see ourselves, but many of us don’t have someone who can speak with the same kind of precision into our lives.
It’s easy to see that we need routines to help us with writing. They help us sit down to do the work even when we don’t feel like it. Perhaps we hesitate to think about prayer routines because we don’t want prayer to feel like “work” or routines are associated with legalistic religion.
It’s easy to see that a list or schedule can help us accomplish more writing. They help us keep our priorities straight, but I’m slow to think of my prayer life in terms of “to do” items or a schedule. It feels inauthentic. Shouldn’t I burst with love and passion for God? Shouldn’t I be constantly pining to pray out of love and gratitude?
Many of the practices that help me write regularly can also help me pray. In fact, the Christian tradition is full of similar practices such as confession, fixed hour prayer, and the church calendar. These relationships, rhythms, and structures provide the boundaries and wisdom we need to navigate our ever-shifting lives.
I was foolish to pursue my own path as a writer without anyone’s help when I started out. While I asked advice from time to time and read books, magazines, and websites, I didn’t experience any breakthroughs until I specifically asked someone for advice. I didn’t increase my productivity until I dedicated myself to lists, schedules, and specific writing times.
During the retreat, I experienced a tremendous amount of freedom to pray, and as I looked back at the experience, I realized that we were applying the same writing practices to prayer.
We had someone to guide us and offer us support.
We set aside time to pray.
We used specific prayer practices.
The more regimented and structured we made our prayer time, the more prayer happened spontaneously and freely.
Sometimes the only way to take a step forward is to first take a couple steps back.