My prayer journey has not been a smooth one. It has not been one of constant and steady improvement. It has taken many twists and turns. But I can identify at least four key turning points in my prayer life that have made a huge and lasting impact:
1. Finding a Prayer Partner
I blogged not long ago about the first time I enlisted a prayer partner. It was a key turning point in my prayer life, as it helped me develop a daily routine that started with prayer.
2. Learning to Pray the Bible
I had been a follower of Jesus (and a pastor, for that matter) for many years before I began praying the Bible—especially (but not exclusively) the Psalms. I discovered that the prayers of David, Moses, Ethan, Heman and others often echoed the hard-to-express prayers of my own heart. Sometimes I prayed them word-for-word and other times I revised or adapted them according to my mood or need of the moment.
3. Taking a Prayer Retreat
A huge turning point in my prayer life was the first time I took a prayer retreat at a real, live monastery with real, live monks. The experience taught me so much about prayer—perhaps most importantly and enduringly a more liturgical way to pray that also included chanting some of my prayers.
4. Discovering The Divine Hours
When I first learned that Phyllis Tickle had written The Divine Hours (in three volumes: Prayers for Springtime, Prayers for Summertime, and Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime), I had to obtain them.
Each book is an easy-to-use manual for fixed-hour prayer, which has been practiced by followers of Jesus for centuries. The pattern and many of the prayers themselves are drawn from The Book of Common Prayer but presented in a more user-friendly format (and enlivened with new material from a wide range of contemplative works, poems, and hymns). It provides daily morning prayers, midday prayers, vespers and, in a separate section, compline prayers to end the day.
I realize, of course, that your prayer life may have far fewer bumps and detours than mine, but I hope one or more of these turning points in my life may suggest something that will encourage a similar transformation in your prayer journey.