I have a group of friends that is reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We recently read Chapter 15, The Hiddenness of Prayer, which can be viewed here, if you are willing to sign up for a trial offer. It appears there is no free Bonhoeffer on the web.
Bonhoeffer emphasizes the importance of not being too public with your praying. He focuses on Mathew 6:5-6, which provides, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” Bonheoffer emphasizes that prayer is a time for you to be present with God, and notes that if you are showing off, or even allowing yourself to be distracted by your own pride at how good a pray-er you are, you will blow it and miss the whole point of prayer.
I am also reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. (The chapter is available on line, without a free trial offer here.) A friend from Chalice gave me the book and I am really enjoying it. Gibran gives this advice on prayer. “You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?” Not to knock Jesus or anything, but I really like this definition of prayer.
Then both texts provide example prayer. I’ll start with Jesus and then quote Gibran.
This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
I cannot teach you how to pray in words. . . [but] if you but listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence,
“Our God, who art our winged self,
it is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights,
which are thine, into days which are thine also.
We cannot ask thee for aught,
for thou knowest our needs before they are born in us:
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself
thou givest us all.”