I do a fair bit of it, but in spite of my advanced years, I still feel I am only a learner. However, I am at a stage now where I am not looking for more advice but for more life. When I worked in a Christian bookshop I sold hundreds of books on prayer. I am fairly confident that some of them were good, but it did seem that a lot of them involved techniques and I no longer need techniques but reality.
In spite of possible protestations to the contrary, my wife snores. Not too loudly, but very definitely. The other night I woke up and struggled to get back to sleep, so I just listened to her snoring. It was a positive experience, I hesitate to use the term lovely experience, but it came pretty close to it. It was just the deep sense of being without doing – no agenda, nothing to achieve, simply being alive with another person. The interesting thing, was that as I lay there listening to Catherine, I started praying. Nothing profound, but a few words of thanks and praise and a few requests for one or two people who I know are struggling, and also, surprisingly, a deep sense of wellbeing as I lay there just being alive with God. I know that God does not sleep, so I guess that means He does not snore either, but if He did, I thought I would enjoy the experience of listening to Him – being, with no agenda, nothing to achieve, simply being alive with the one who made me.
I do not think it is possible to reproduce moments like that to order. It may never happen again, so I am certainly not going to write a book on how to improve your prayer life by listening to someone snoring. If it does happen again, I will welcome it and savour it, but if it does not, that is fine. For although I am not very good at praying, God is actually helping me and I trust Him to create small lessons like this in which He will teach me.
On the other hand, one of the other things I am learning about prayer, is that some aspects of it are quite hard work, involving research, compiling lists, and then (much harder) praying through the lists on a regular basis.
Although I am not a particular good prayer, I am quite at ease about the matter. I have agreed with God that I will respond if He teaches me and so, little by little, in a wide variety of ways I am getting better as He gives me small insights and opportunities. Sometimes I resist, and occasionally I rebel and switch off completely – no more lessons today – I just want to indulge myself. But He is patient, kind and firm, and I come back, repent, and we start again. That is the advantage of living by receiving His life – it is possible to work things through. With a technique, you just have to try harder – and I for one cannot do that anymore.