Conversations 2.1: Prayer: Transformation with God
Volume 2:1 Spring 2004
“Those who know God most deeply and genuinely are people who have relearned the soul’s natural language of prayerful attentiveness to the divine. They are attuned to God.
Christian prayer is openness and attunement to the God who is ever reaching out, ever communicating, ever seeking intimate engagement with us. Christian prayer is being present to the God who is present to us. Christian prayer begins with the realization that the communication begins with God. To talk before listening is simply bad manners!” David G. Benner from the front page of issue 2.1 on Prayer.
As the title of this issue states, prayer is primarily conversation with God. The founding editors of this journal resonated with the belief that our spiritual life and transformation into Christ-likeness is formed through conversations with God and with others so they decided to name the publication after that idea. If you look closely at the logo you can see that what appears to be a butterfly (symbol of metamorphosis) is actually two profiles facing each other in conversation.
In the frontpage article David G. Benner invites us to examine what we know about prayer, and perhaps what we haven’t yet learned. “Prayer is much more than most of us think or practice. Offering petitions for self and others is certainly a legitimate part of prayer. But petitionary prayer far from exhausts the possibilities of this rich, soul-nourishing contact with God.” You’ll notice a list on the front page of various ways of being with Jesus, also known as prayer. The articles in this issue explore these ways of praying and invite you to consider how you can expand upon what you think you know about how to pray.
Many voices weighed in as we dialogued about the topic of prayer. Throughout this issue you’ll hear writers referring to “beginners” or novice pray-ers. In some ways we are all still learning about being with God—yet there are those that have taught and written on the subject, and have journeyed with Jesus longer than others, and we invited a few of them to contribute to this issue. The beauty of the ministry of the Body of Christ is such that we can glean from their wisdom as they nudge us to expand our way of being with him. If prayer is essentially conversation with our Creator, then let’s listen in to what we can learn about this vital topic.
J.I. Packer shared an essay about how prayer has shaped his knowing of God. He gives the reader a helpful analogy comparing one’s learning about God through His written word to a painting that brings new things to admire each time you look at it. Juliet Benner shares her gift of art, writing, and spiritual direction and provides a lovely meditation on the cover art. Frank Lomax has written a helpful piece on the relationship between liturgical prayer and private prayer. Gary Moon sat down with Richard Foster to discuss his book, Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home, where he identifies twenty-one forms of prayer. You’ll discover articles on listening prayer, imaginative prayer, and honest reflections about the hardships of prayer. Truly, this issue is worth pulling out from the archives, and we hope it brings nourishment to your soul.
Inevitably in our spiritual life, we’ll enter a season of dryness when God seems distant and ways of being with him don’t seem life-giving as they have previously. What we’ve come to know about these “dark nights” or “cloud of unknowing” isn’t just a drought experienced by mystics or someone “more spiritual.” In an interview with Father Thomas Green, you’ll be relieved to know this time can be a place where our relationship with God deepens and has the potential to add a richness to our prayer life. Fr. Green talks with David Benner about his book, When the Well Runs Dry, and what he’s learned over the years as a spiritual director and in his journey with Jesus. Perhaps it’s just anecdotal evidence, but it seems that most folks I talk to about their spiritual life in the past year (living through a pandemic) are familiar with this dry well. If you’d like to read more about how Father Green views this season as a gift from God, visit the classroom for the article and exercises to aid you in your conversations with God.