Desert Wisdom: Unceasing Prayer

Book 12 brings us to the core of early Christian spirituality.

The brothers asked Agatho, “Abba, which virtue in our way of life needs more effort to acquire?”  He said to them, “I may be wrong, but I think nothing needs so much effort as prayer to God.  If anyone wants to pray, the demons try to interrupt the prayer, for they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them.  (12:2)

Arguably from the Bible, but surely from the earliest days of Christianity, prayer was considered to be the chief means of grace.  In today’s reading one evidence is the conviction of the desert fathers and mothers that the demons work so hard to keep us from praying.

Eighteen centuries later, we still struggle to “find time to pray.”  One way to overcome this struggle is to “let the time find us”—that is, practice the traditional times of prayer: awakening, morning, noon, evening, and bedtime.  Additionally, some may also be led to “pray the hours.”

In my tradition, John Wesley did both of the things I’ve just mentioned, thus rooting his life of prayer in the liturgical patterns of the church.  This does not mean he ceased to struggle with prayer.  But it does mean that he used the hours of the day to literally overcome the problem of not being able to “find time to pray.”

If you are finding it difficult to “find time to pray,” consider establishing a liturgical pattern in your spiritual formation.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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