You’re walking along — in transit between Point A and Point B (your home and your tram stop, your office and wherever you parked your car).
You’ve set aside the time to pray. Perhaps to start your morning with something important. Or review your day.
So you begin: “Loving God…”
You pray briefly for a couple of big picture things. This morning’s headlines. Uncle Ernest’s big operation. Stuff like that.
Then you turn your attention to the day, intending to offer up whatever crosses your mind.
There’s that looming deadline.
And some simmering conflict with a work colleague.
Yep — definitely pray about that.
And you need to call your parents. Better pray for that conversation! Oh yeah — and for them too…
And there’s the dry cleaning to pick up…
Whoa. Back on track.
“Maybe I should pull out my phone and check my appointments. Then I can commit my day to God — hour by hour.”
And before you know it prayer gets buried under the jumble of day planning — adding items to your To Do list, checking email, and scanning your Facebook news feed…
It happens to me all the time. All. The. Time.
Mind you, it’s not a new problem. Theologian John Calvin wrote about it back in the Seventeenth Century (minus the email and Facebook bit).
Here’s what Calvin says about the tendency of undisciplined prayer to collapse under the weight of random thoughts and recollections in his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion (III.xx.5):
No one is so intent on praying that he does not feel many irrelevant thought stealing upon him, which either break the course of prayer or delay it by some winding bypath.
What can be done about this?
This is where the Lord’s Prayer comes in.
Explicitly so in Luke’s Gospel. When Jesus’ disciples approach him and ask, “Lord, teach us to pray”, Jesus responds by outlining the What, How, and Why of prayer. And it all starts with the Lord’s Prayer.
For Jesus in Luke, this prayer is a solid and spacious trellis upon which his disciples can grow a healthy and fruitful prayer life.
Which certainly sounds to me like a pretty good place to start — or start again!