“Come to me, all you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Prayer is the most neglected resource of Christians, and yet we so often blame our very busyness ‘about the Lord’s work’ for not having the time to be still in his presence. We live and talk about justification by grace, and live as though we were justified by work(s). We run our lives under the supposed imperatives of the ‘work ethic’, and fail to realize that even moon rockets require refueling if they are to avoid burnout. We can be thankful that we are witnessing, in recent years, a recovery of Christian prayer and meditation alongside, but clearly distinguishable from,. the increased interest in Easter meditation. There are some similarities in approaches to or preparation for Christian and ‘Eastern’ prayer, but Christian prayer is fundamentally Christ-mediated and Trinitarian in expression, however helpful we may find preparatory physical relaxation, the quieting of our minds, the centering of our attention, and techniques for blocking out distractions from the external environment. (Christianity was, of course ‘Eastern’ in cultural setting, and hence in many of its religious forms and practices; and was only later ‘domesticated’ by ‘Western’ civilization.)
The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is, of course, the model prayer for modern as well as first century Christians. But it is a prayer to be breathed slowly and reflectively, its nuances and depths meditated upon and allowed to ‘simmer’ at the back of the mind, rather than ‘rattled off’ like a formula. Especially as a mode of corporate prayer in the community of faith, we need to recapture something of its ‘simple profundity’ by surrounding its congregational recitation by times of silence. As a personal approach to God, it is a rich resource for meditation and contemplation, a means for praying rather than an end in itself.