Over the door of my childhood home hangs a beautiful piece of framed art that defines the theology of prayer for our family. It is a simple piece of art with only twelve words, all written in a beautiful script. Like most of us who purposefully place pieces of art on the walls of our home, we notice their beauty occasionally—but less and less as the months and years go by. Soon it becomes part of the wall and our eyes linger less, which in turns makes our minds and thoughts linger even less. I suppose that piece has been hanging on the wall of our family home for nearly 20 years now, but this fall I paused to take notice of its beauty, simplicity and the theology that is speaks to those who leave the serenity of our family home to walk once again in world.
Richard Foster affirms this theology of prayer as writes, “[t]o pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives.” Prayer is fundamentally an act of change. In prayer, even before one word is spoken aloud, or within our hearts, we give life to a desire to be changed in the act of bowing our heads, lowering our eyes, and in clasping our hands. To enter into a posture of prayer is to fundamentally confess a willingness to be changed by prayer—to confess a need to live into a different reality than what is present.
None of us come into the knowledge and wisdom of God knowing how to pray. Even the disciples, after having been withJesus himself for a number a years—still needed to be taught how pray and so they asked the Good Teacher, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” Prayer is a learned Spiritual Discipline and therefore prayer must be practiced again and again. A South African minister once said,
“Reading a book about prayer, listening to lectures and talking about it is very good, but it won’t teach you to pray. You get nothing without exercise, without practice. I might listen for a year to a professor of music playing the most beautiful music, but that won’t teach me to play an instrument.”
The Holy Spirit is our tenured Professor of Prayer. Her job is to teach and instruct the people of faith how to pray, and to beckon us all in an uninterrupted life of prayer. Scottish Theologian P. T. Forsyth, who penned a wonderful book on prayer entitled The Soul of Prayer observed that
“Prayer is to religion what original research is to science.”
If we are to unearth new discoveries, reach new zeniths in faith we must commit ourselves fully to engage in this life-giving work of original research with the Holy Spirt serving as our Primary Professor and Research Advisor.
What is true is that developing a consistent prayer is not as easy as it may seem. There are so many things and activities in our world which constantly seek to pull us away from the practice of this Inward Spiritual Discipline. But with time and commitment, a healthy consistent prayer life can be achieved, developed and nurtured. Nearly two years I ago began a weekly practice of gathering, on a conference call, with a group of about 50 African American pastors at 4:20AM (PST) every Sunday morning for prayer. It has been a tremendous commitment to say the least—but each Saturday night I prepare for the call by checking my weekly alarm, ensuring my phone is charged, and volume loud enough to wake me up. I then turn over to rest comfortably until I am pulled away by the Spirit for that weekly early morning prayer call. On the occasions when I fail to pull myself from rest to prayer, it shows in the pulpit—and on the Sundays when I rise to the occasion—it too shows in the pulpit. What I can attest is that the weekly early morning discipline makes a significant difference in my pulpit; prayer indeed is less about changing others, and more about changing us.
Prayer, like all other Spiritual Disciplines, is not something that is to be mastered but it is a discipline that is to be practiced. To be sure there will be good days, and not so good days—but the measure of one’s success is not about good verses bad, but consistent practice and persistence to the very end.
 Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), 33.
 Luke 11:1, Common English Bible
 Andrew Murray, as quoted in Christian Today, February 5, 1990, 38.
 Bishop John E. Guns(Florida), Dr. Victor S. Couzens(Florida), and Dr. William Curtis(Pennsylvannia) convenue a weekly prayer call for Pastors and Clergy each Sunday at 4:20AM PST. The number to dial is 712-432-0370, the access code is 262425. #PastorsPray