How to Pray (Part 1)

For the next few weeks I would like to share from the Devotional Classics (personal and group devotions) book about the thoughts concerning prayer from Jean-Nicholas Grou. You can agree or disagree about his life and the thoughts, it's perfectly okay to live in that tension, but I really felt impressed to the share these excerpts over the next few weeks in Monday Thoughts.  I hope you find encouragement and application through these thoughts from both Mr. Grou and his teachings and from Marilyn Schouten and the world of which I am a part.

Devotional Classics, Edited by Richard Foster 

"Introduction to the Author: Jean-Nicholas Grou lived in France and Holland. He was Jesuit priest who entered into a deeper life with God on a retreat in 1767 where he learned to live his life in the spirit of prayer and complete abandon to God's will. He spent most of his time writing and speaking on the subject of spiritual growth, particularly the practice of prayer. The following passage comes from his famous work How to Pray. In it he urges us to look to God alone to teach us how to pray. Grou calls us to abandon our many methods and focus upon the object of our prayer: God. Many times we struggle in prayer because our focus is on the act of praying, i.e., the proper methods, formulae (that is the correct spelling), and words. Grou teaches us to pray "in spirit and in truth" by letting our hearts, not our lips, do most of our praying. His writing is simple and precise, yet full of enthusiasm and warmth. When reading Grou one feels the presence of God in his words.

EXCERPTS FROM HOW TO PRAY

1. God Alone Teaches Us to Pray One day the disciples said to Jesus Christ: "Lord, teach us to pray." It was the Holy Spirit who inspired them to make this request. The Holy spirit convinced them of their inability to pray in their own strength and he moved their hearts to draw near to Jesus Christ as the only Master who could teach them how they ought to pray. It was then that
Jesus taught them the Lord's Prayer. There is no Christian who is not in the same case as the disciples. Every Christian ought to say to the Savior as humbly as they: "Lord, teach us to pray." Ah! if we were only convinced of our ignorance and of our need of a Teacher like Jesus Christ! If we would only approach him with confidence, asking him to teach us himself and desiring to be taught by his grace how to converse with God! How soon we should be skilled in it and how many of its secrets we should discover! Do not let us say that we know how to pray the prayer they learned from him. We may know the words, but without grace we cannot understand the meaning and we cannot ask or receive what it expresses.

2. Who Prevents Us? Who prevents us from receiving the gift of prayer? Can we doubt that Jesus Christ is willing to give it to us? But do we desire it? Do we ask it? Do we think we need it? How many Christians do not even know what it is? And how many others instead of desiring it are afraid of it because it would commit them to a new way of life? We know by heart a few forms of prayer. We find others to choose from in books. This is where many people stop, and when they have read these or recited them by heart, they imagine that nothing else is required.  How grievously we deceive ourselves! With all these forms, however beautiful the sentiments expressed, we do not know how to pray. Perhaps we are praying in our own way, but we are not praying in God's way. Where is the woman whose chief prayer is to ask God to teach her how to pray? God must teach us everything concerning the nature of prayer: its object, its characteristics, the disposition it requires, and the personal application we must make of it according to our needs. In the matter of prayer we are as ignorant of the theory as of the practice."

What do you think about this first section? For the next few weeks, I am going to give you a suggested question for a discussion and a suggested exercise concerning this topic on how to pray.

I hope that you and I will take the opportunity to have conversations with each other concerning this topic, ask questions and possibly put into practice our view on asking the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray.  Here is a reflection question from Richard Foster: "Essential to the act of prayer is an acknowledgment of our inability to pray in our own strength. In what ways can we demonstrate an awareness of our need for God in prayer? "

In addition, here is a practical application for this week, this is one that I have been doing for months as words from my heart elude me during these troubled economic/political times and during these transitional changes of more intentional purposes that surround our beloved Vineyard Grace Fellowship..."Pray the Lord's Prayer this week, but pray it with fresh eyes and a heart that longs to be taught how to pray by the One who calls us to pray." "Ah! if we were only convinced of our ignorance and of our need of a Teacher like Jesus Christ!" Lord, let it be this week for myself and the precious friends of VGF..."Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...