“Keep it simple”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 246

I am in my third year of participating in the Renovare book club. The first book in this season’s set of four is “How to pray” by Pete Greig.

Quiet time coaching episodes will focus on his book for the next few weeks. You don’t need to read it to benefit from these recordings, but you might like to get hold of a copy for yourself. I’m three quarters of my way through the book and can thoroughly recommend it. A full review of the book will come at a later date in “What we are reading”.

Today we will reflect on the second chapter of the book, “Keeping it simple”

“The best bit of advice I ever received about how to pray was this: keep it simple, keep it real, keep it up. You’ve got to keep it simple so that the most natural thing in the world doesn’t become complicated, weird and intense. You’ve got to keep it real because when life hurts like hell you’re going to be tempted to pretend you’re fine. And then at other times, when you make a mess of things, you’re going to be tempted to hide from God (which never really works) and end up hiding from yourself (which works quite well). And you’ve got to keep it up because life is tough, the battle is fierce, and God is not an algorithm. The journey of faith demands a certain bloody-mindedness of us all, not least in the realm of prayer.” Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 27). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

1. Keep it simple

“God wants to spend time with us even more than we want to spend time with him.” Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 28). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

“He then goes on to give the Lord’s Prayer, which was just thirty-one words long in its original language, and also originally rhymed. Jesus wrote us a poem! Having advocated simplicity in prayer, he modelled it with a short, rhyming prototype that takes thirty seconds to recite in English and fits in a single tweet. As Archbishop Justin Welby says, the Lord’s Prayer is ‘simple enough to be memorised by small children, and yet profound enough to sustain a whole lifetime of prayer’.” Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 29). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

Prayer, in its essence, is conversation. One blending reverence with familiarity.

2. Keep it real

“Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?” (Exodus 5:22 NIV11)

“The author Anne Lamott wrote a refreshingly irreverent book about prayer with a title I’ve always liked: Help, Thanks, Wow. These three words, she argues, are the only prayers we will ever need.” Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 30). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those which are least supported by devotional feeling … these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.” (C.S. Lewis) Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 32). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

God has never been surprised by anything anyone has said to him. His desire to hear your voice is greater than his desire that you say the ‘right’ things.

3. Keep it up

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” (Luke 18:1 NRSV)

Frank Laubach…compared praying to throwing rocks in a swamp. Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 33). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

“But here is the great and inescapable truth, taught in Scripture, modelled by Christ and advocated without exception by all the heroes of our faith: you cannot grow in prayer without some measure of effort and discomfort, self-discipline and self-denial. Just as you cannot get physically fit without regular exercise and a healthy diet, so your spiritual growth will be determined, to a very significant extent, by the prayer exercises you choose (or do not choose) to establish and sustain.” Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 33). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

Delight without discipline eventually, inevitably dissipates. It runs out of steam. But when delight and discipline learn to dance, relationships thrive. Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 34). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

“A Christian who prays only when they feel like it may survive but they will never thrive. Their vast, innate potential will be stunted because grace needs a little space to take root between the cracks of a person’s life.” Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 35). John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)

“He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.” (Luke 22:39 NRSV)

In prayer, quantity is often more important than quality.

Conclusion

Questions for discussion:

  • What stands out to you about keeping it simple?
  • How might your prayer life grow if you could learn how to keep it simple, keep it real and keep it up?

Suggestion: Pray with honesty and consistency.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical?Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website.

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John