Desert Wisdom: Prayer as Dialog

The early distinction between the psalms (God’s word to us) and prayer (our word to God) establishes the fact that prayer is dialog.  When we pray, we are in holy conversation with God.  Clement of Alexandria defined prayer as “dialog with God.”

Bunge rightly points out that the Psalter includes this sense of dialog, even though God’s word to us (revelation) is primary and our word to God (response) is secondary (p. 44).

Years ago, my view of prayer was radically changed by a little booklet entitled, My Heart, Christ’s Home.  Written by Robert Boyd Munger (and still in print today), it is a visual depiction of how a relationship with Christ transforms our lives.

One aspect of the transformation is prayer—understood as dialog with God.  In Munger’s story, Jesus simply sits on the sofa in the living room of our heart, and daily converses with us, through the pages of Scripture and his commentary upon it.  There is no prescribed pattern or required language—just talking, back-and-forth.

Good dialog does not have innumerable prerequisites.  It just happens.  Dialog doesn’t fade or falter when things are repeated.  In fact, repetition is one way that the layers of something are peeled away, allowing deeper meanings to emerge.

Perhaps most of all, dialog is relaxed receptivity on the part of both persons.  Amazingly, God is relaxed in our presence, lovingly awaiting whatever we are moved to share.  And similarly, we are relaxed in God’s presence, knowing that we do not have to pray in any particular way to attract and hold God’s attention.

Over the years, when people of have asked me, “How should I pray?” I simply tell them to start talking.  Just let the words begin to flow (e.g. “God I’m tired” or “God I need your help”), and the conversation will move on from there.  In time, we may choose to add other things to the prayer time (e.g. liturgy), but nothing that we add will ever supersede the fundamental reality that prayer is dialog.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books.
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