During the Coronavirus shutdown I have been reading books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while. This week I read Rev. Evan Pilkington’s Paths to Personal Prayer (Twenty-Third Publications: Mystic, Connecticut. 1988. The edition I read is from the third printing in 1991.)
I got it secondhand someplace over the years – I don’t think it is in print now. Rev. Pilkington was an Anglican priest. The book is short but it is a good read to encourage to think about prayer. What I am going to reflect on here is not a “how-to” on prayer. Rather, the goal is here is to think about what we seek in prayer.
I will offer a quote from the book in italics and then some words of my own for reflection. I encourage you to read Rev. Pilkington’s words and then pause to reflect on how you interpret them before reading my words.
Prayer is spending time with God (9).
I pray in order to express my love of God (9).
Why do you pray? Are you giving a list of intercessions to God? God certainly wants us to express our needs and to pray for others but our prayer should be more than that. Do you ever just spend time with someone you love just to be with them without saying or doing much? In your prayer, do you ever just spend time with God?
I do not pray in order to get something from God. I pray in order to give something to God (11).
There is nothing wrong in asking something from God is prayer. God tells us to ask (Matthew 7:7-11, John 14:13-15). However, the “giving” in prayer should not be one way. What can we give to God? Love! Praise!
I pray in order that I may be open to God (11-12).
I pray in order to cooperate with God (12).
We should not do all the talking in prayer. If we do all the talking, we are not “open to God”. We are not giving God a chance to speak to us to guide us to do what is right, to do what God asks of us. Prayer should be a dialogue. If we want to “cooperate with God,” we need to hear what He has to say.
Prayer is a very strange activity. It is an attempt to communicate with a Being who is not accessible to our ordinary senses (14).
Prayer requires discipline (14).
We are trying to communicate with God. When I say, “we need to hear what He has to say,” we must realize we are not going to hear God speaking words in the same way that we hear other human beings speak. With other human beings we don’t always listen well but at least we know when they are talking because we physically hear the words. God speaks to our heart, not our ears. That’s why “prayer requires discipline.” We need to discipline ourselves to put the focus to God, striving to get past earthly distractions.
Some people like to pray in a church, if possible, because it has a spiritual atmosphere. Some people are helped by having visual aids around – a crucifix, an icon, a picture…Some people are helped by aural aids-listening to a piece of music that lifts the mind and heart to God. Some people are helped by physical aids-touching the beads of a rosary (16).
While we do not experience God specifically through our ordinary senses, the setting in which we pray can make it easier or harder to connect with God in prayer. A Crucifix reminds us of God’s love. Music can calm our soul (be careful, it can also agitate our soul if we pick the wrong music). A Rosary can help us center ourselves in our prayer (see my previous article, ” A Different Kind of Holy Week,” for some guidance on creating a prayer space at home.)
Always begin by getting still. That is vital. You come to your time of prayer with your body all tense and your mind racing (17).
Yep! That’s me! My mind is often racing. I have so much going through my head that sometimes my happiest moments in prayer is when I can let go of the thoughts and embrace the silence. God is in the silence (“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:11). Do I tell God what I need? Do I pray for other people’s needs? Of course I do. I hand these prayers over to God as I strive to hand my concerns over to him, trusting in his merciful love.
Pilkington then discusses prayer as A.C.T.S.
A stands for Adoration. Be conscious of God’s immensity and glory and try to express your wonder, admiration, worship, and praise in words (22).
C stands for Contrition. Be conscious of yourself and the ways you have ignored or rejected God (23).
T stands for Thanksgiving. Be thankful to God (23).
S stands for Supplication. The object of the exercise is not inform God of what you what…The object of the exercise is to put yourself, with all your desires, anxieties, problems, circumstances, duties, pleasures, and pains, into the hands of God (23).
I could write a lot here. Instead, I just invite you to think about which of the four you need to work on.
Lastly, I will mention Rev. Pilkington’s words on spontaneous prayer. Prayer is not something that is confined to formal prayer at set times. Pilkington speaks of praying “before anything you do…And after you have done it, however it appears to have a gone, a quick “Thank you, Lord, for using me” (35).
If you are looking for information on formal ways to pray, check my website page, “Prayer & Devotions.”
If you would like instructions on specific prayers like the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, etc. check out St. Luke the Evangelist’s Prayer Resource page as a starting place.
If you would like to hear more about how we look at prayer from me, check out my video presentation, Talking to God: A Conversation About Prayer.
I pray for you to know the presence of God in your prayer and in your whole life.