For many people, prayer consists of talking to God. Some people even have long lists that they pray through. But prayer is meant to be a conversation between God and you about matters that concern you both: people you love, causes you care about, work that you’re pouring yourself into, well-being in all of life, the Kingdom of God moving forward. Sometimes I picture prayer as Jesus and me sitting on a park bench side-by-side. There I process with Jesus (sometimes even complain) and receive guidance, maybe in the form of simple nudges. Other times ideas come to me that don’t sound like anything I would or could come up with!
In order for such conversation to happen, we need to be willing to listen to God as well as talk to God. Backing up even more, we need to be attentive to God’s presence with us just as we turn to listen to someone who speaks to us. If we are to give the other person our full attention, we need to surrender all the chatter in our heads. We have to decide that it’s not up to us to solve every problem; some matters are “too great or awesome” for us and we can trust God to address them.
In conversations with people, we hear what the other person is saying to us best if we are at peace within. In conversation with God, we are more likely to be glad to be in God’s presence and to interact with God when we have an inner stillness and quiet mind. Being still doesn’t come about by forcing ourselves into it; we ask God to help us and that stillness becomes God’s gift to us.
Jan Johnson is a retreat speaker, spiritual director, the creator of many Bible studies, and the author of 22 books, including Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina. Visit her at www.JanJohnson.org.