Recently I met with one of our Rice Graduate students. Lindsey is getting her Ph.D. in English and we meet for coffee time to time. It's been interesting to hear what she's writing for her dissertation. And our conversations also involve matters of faith.
I'm engaged in a spiritual practice of being open to what God wants to show me. So I wake each morning being intentional right from the start to ask God about the day and then end each evening with a time to reflect on my day's experiences. It's an opportunity to examine my life and God's movement in it. Most always God shows me something through someone else; and often insight comes in what I'm reading.
As soon as Lindsay said it, I knew it was the thing God was showing me for that day. We were talking about the struggle people often have with understanding God's will for their lives. It naturally led to a conversation about prayer. Lindsay said she had a mentor tell her once something about prayer that stuck with her, and now it's sticking with me. Her mentor told her that many people often treat prayer like a spare tire. When we have a flat, we get out the spare tire; when something goes wrong in our life, we start praying. He told her that we should make the shift to seeing prayer as a steering wheel. Prayer should be forward looking. In the praying we uncover the direction God is leading us. Prayer helps steer us in those directions.
That insight has stuck with me now for a week. I've reflected on my habits in prayer and realize some work needs to be done to change my mental model about prayer. It's really been helpful.
I've begun to see that for a while now my prayer life has not changed to match the change in how I view God that happened for me several years ago. Some time ago I stopped understanding God so much as a personal being. I see God now more like the water in which fish swim or the air through which birds fly. God is present all around, present in all things. God is all around us and in us.
And so actually, my whole life is a prayer really. The joys and the sorrows. The conversations I have in my head; and yes the arguments I have in my head with my "enemies" too. The reading and the study and the work, everything. My whole life is a prayer. And if that's true, then so is yours.