Most people practice prayer as a very private exercise. Many are quite shy about it and reticent to share their secrets or talk about their habits. But I have been the beneficiary of some people who, while not prideful at all, nonetheless have taught and modeled prayer to me in important ways. Here is a short list of my prayer mentors:
1) An author
I was still a teenager when I discovered the prayers of the preacher Peter Marshall, chaplain of the U.S. Senate from 1947-1949. I first encountered some of his prayers in the book, Mr. Jones, Meet the Master: Sermons and Prayers of Peter Marshall, which influence both my praying and my preaching to this day.
2) A seminary professor
When my wife and I were training for ministry in The Salvation Army, one of our instructors, Major Damon Rader, prayed intense and prophetic prayers in class and worship assemblies that took my breath away. It was obvious from his public prayers that his private prayer life was not only regular but also frank and intimate. I wanted to pray like that.
3) About 30 monks
Sometime around 1997 or so I took my first prayer retreat at a real, live monastery with real, live monks. The example and practice of those 30 or so monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Louisville, Kentucky, taught me much about prayer. I still value their company and partnership in prayer as I return to that monastery every year (sometimes more than once a year).
4) A psalmist
About the same time I met those monks, I started studying and praying the prayers of David (and a few others), found in the book of Psalms in the Bible. I even learned to sing them to spontaneous tunes and chant them to ancient tunes, which I highly recommend.
5) A few more authors
Over the last 20 years or so, I have been mentored in prayer by other authors, such as Richard Foster (Prayer: The Heart’s True Home), Robert Benson (Living Prayer) and Phyllis Tickle (The Divine Hours).
I am immensely grateful for these prayer mentors. They have changed my prayer life and, in so doing, have also changed me.