One of the most difficult things to do is to pray well. Prayer is like a spiritual barometer of our inner state of health. Even those who are well practised at it can fall into all kinds of strife. Why is this so?
Because prayer demands the attention of our whole person calling upon the mind, the soul, the physical self and most importantly our heart. To turn our attention wholly to God is not easy to do. Yet such devotion is an integral aspect of true love.
Jesus instructs us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
Central to the practice of good prayer therefore is the ability for us to direct our full and undivided attention towards God. Even well known prayers that we commit to memory such as the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed should be said as if for the first time calling upon our whole person to attention before God. This requires great concentration and inner strength.
Interests of other kinds that demand our full attention, be they people, activities or material things that take precedence over God can serve as powerful interferences in worship and prayer. Worship and prayer are essential expressions of our love for God. We may feel justified in immersing ourselves in all kinds of activity which are all absorbing and engrossing in our lives. Such activities may include our career, study, occupation, sport, recreation, possessions and so on. But if we allow other things to take precedence over God we will find ourselves in spiritually treacherous ground. For it is only by acknowledging God that we become truly fulfilled in whatever we do, for He is the source of all life and existence. And by this means, by acknowledging Him the source of all that exist and that is love, we can then realise what is paramount in prayer, and that is to practice remembrance of God who is central to every aspect of our life. The more God is forgotten in daily activity, the more difficult it becomes for us to pray or even have our prayers answered because our prayer is reduced to little more than an additive rather than assuming its rightful place as a central and essential ingredient of our relationship and love for God. God not only provides all that we have but has given us life itself to experience those gifts. How can we then enjoy those gifts but fail to remember Him?
How quickly we forget that all things were created by God? Nothing therefore has any legitimate precedence before Him and nothing is beyond Him for all things are of Him and in Him. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John:1:3)
God does not exclude Himself from His creation, though He does not require anything to sustain Him. He has chosen to be one with His creation. So He is served by us through what is already His.