From the Publisher: Living Prayer

September 19, 2017 by Stephen D. Bryant

Living prayer is one way we talk about our vision for people’s spiritual lives here at The Upper Room. Years ago, we named our intercessory prayer ministry the Living Prayer Center. But what is "living prayer"? The phrase is a double entendre because it has double meaning for us, depending on whether we read “living” as an adjective or as a verb. Living prayer both describes a vital prayer life and names the action of turning prayer into a way of life.

Living prayer describes a quality of prayer that is alive to God and life-giving. We all know its opposite: lifeless prayer. Prayer can be so for a number of reasons. One is a lack of honesty on our part. For Luther, the first rule of prayer was “don't lie.” God knows, loves, and wants to relate to the real you and me, not an imposter. Another cause is unwillingness to hear what God wants to say to us. Even a willingness to admit our unwillingness can unstop the spring of God’s grace and guidance within us. A third cause is functional atheism: living as though God does not exist despite our professions of belief. This is where I find a daily liturgy so helpful. Even when I don’t feel it or have any sense of God, I allow the morning prayer in the Upper Room Worshipbook to serve as my daily wake-up call to spiritual attention: “New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world….”

Prayer may also be lifeless for want of a way to pray other than the model we may have learned or observed as a child. Centuries-old wisdom teaches, “Pray as you can, not as you think you ought.” If you would benefit from a fresh exposure to our rich heritage of Christian prayer, you can find help and guidance in any one of several Upper Room resources, such as the classic Workbook of Living Prayer, Beginning Prayer, How to Pray, and The Way of Prayer, as well as online guidance in the resources section of our website. Discover your way of being present to God’s presence to you. 

Living prayer is not only a vital prayer life; it is also an active life rooted in a living connection with God, which is the character of Christ-like living. Living prayer is prayerful living, walking with God, putting conversation with our Creator into action as we go, living and leading from a listening heart. Living prayer is living from moment to moment under the sway of God’s love.

With living prayer, the test is not, “Did God answer our prayers?” but “Did we make ourselves available?” Jesus prayed daily, and daily he made himself available to be God’s answer to the need of a hurting world. Our lives, like Jesus’ life, can become living prayer.

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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”

Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.