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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Preparing your heart for prayer

The seeds of new methods can only root when we're ready to receive them

A young man approached me after I had spoken to his congregation about different methods of prayer. While he had enjoyed my talk and ideas about prayer, he was concerned about putting what he had learned into practice. “I’ve heard about many of these prayer forms before,” he said. He had read about and studied centering prayer, lectio divina (praying with the Bible), and prayers of intercession and confession. He had entertained the possibility of informal, unceasing prayer.

But all this information wasn’t being translated into his prayer life. “The more I learn the less I seem to practice,” he said. “What do you think is happening?”

In my years of teaching about prayer, I’ve encountered these concerns often. At first they puzzled me: Why would people who longed to pray and intentionally learned new methods not pray? What held them back? As I listened to stories and examined my teaching style, I realized I was like the sower in the parable in Matthew’s Gospel (13:3-9) tossing the seeds of prayer into people’s lives.

Some seeds fell on hard ground and were eaten by birds, or sprang up quickly only to wither and die. Others fell in thorns and were lost. But the seeds that fell on rich, moist ground took root and grew strong.


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April issue

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Faith traditions

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