See more book notes at www.davidmays.org

 

LONG WANDERING PRAYER

An Invitation to Walk with God

 

David Hansen

InterVarsity Press, 2001, 168 pp.  ISBN 0-8308-2283-6

 

David Hansen is pastor of Kenwood Baptist Church in Cincinnati and author of two other books.  If praying for a long time is difficult—which it is for most of us—try Pastor Hansen’s suggestions.

 

The various chapters cover the potential of and barriers to long praying, the role of physical and mental wandering, the connecting of previously unconnected thoughts and events, importunity in prayer, guilt and excuses, dryness, and wonderful experiences with God.  The author has included some experiences of others as examples.

 

“Long wandering prayer...is mental wandering in the presence of God....”  “(It) involves walking, or at least moving, and stopping whenever we want, to consider a lily for as long as we desire.  Long wandering prayer uses the fact that our minds wander as an advantage to prayer rather than as a disadvantage.  In long wandering prayer we recognize that what we want to pray about may not be what God wants us pray about.  Our obsessive drive to control our minds in the presence of God, that is, to pray about one thing or stick to one list, may be a form of hiding from God.  In this kind of prayer we recognize the wandering mind as a precious resource for complex and startling dialogue with God.” (11)

 

“The awareness that God was with me when I was alone became the willingness to pray when the impulse occurred.” (12)

 

“I wandered the rivers and streams of Montana at will seeking trout for sport, and solitude for prayer and thinking.”  “The entire ministry flowed from the long wandering thinking in the presence of God.” (14)

 

Many Christians walk to think.  They can learn to walk to pray.  Morning devotions are discipline, but my long prayers come from appetite.  (15) 

 

“Isn’t it better to pray the way we can, instead of not praying because we can’t pray the way we think other people pray?” (16)

 

“Psalm praying appears to be a running inner dialogue in the presence of God.  Many of the psalms appear to be poetic compressions of hours alone wrestling with God and self and even with enemies and loved ones”  (19)

 

“Go out and open your mind before God in a long wandering process of psalm-like praying.”  “I can hold on to hope and praise as the goal of every prayer, no matter how long it takes and no matter how many emotional cognitive shifts it takes to get there.”  (23)

 

There is a latent desire in all of us to “walk with God.” (27)

 

“How can short prayer solve the problem of long worry?  It took a long time for anxiety to grip our guts; only long prayer can release that power.” (28)

 

“The daily exigencies of my life have not precluded prayer; they have demanded it.”  “For me, the high aspiration of spending long, unhurried time with God has nearly always been instigated by a simple cry for help.” (29)

 

“The beauty of creation reflects the glory of God.”  “When Jesus wants us to calm our worries, he doesn’t tell us to think about spiritual beauty.  He bids us to consider the lilies.” (33)

 

“Very often, when God takes our mind away from what we wanted to pray about to what we really need to pray about, it feels like our mind has wandered.” (35)

 

“Long wandering prayer is...like lovers wandering with one another without a plan, without hiding thoughts, not knowing where the trip will lead—and not caring.” (36)

 

“We live in such a noisy, distracting world.  The soul tends to get neglected first.” (40)

 

“Prayer comes to us from a people who spent the first thousand years of their existence living in tents.” (43) They prayed the prayers of a wanderer. (44) God gave Abram an astronomical metaphor; count the stars.... (45)  “David himself would have fallen asleep trying to do what we call prayer for more than ten minutes.  Rather, he danced.” (48)

 

“I know of no biblical mandate for quiet time.  For me, quiet time always turns into sleepy time.  I think what we have been calling quiet time should really, biblically, be termed alone time.” (48)

 

“The same person who cannot pray for more than ten minutes can shop for eight hours.” (49)

 

“We pray body and soul and no other way.”  “We must deny bodyless prayer.  When the body falls asleep, praying stops.  When the body awakens, prayer continues.” (50)

 

“I can wander through the church for thirty minutes or several hours, and not only do my body and mind stay awake, but as I walk I am reminded what to pray for.” (51)  “The church building is the best prayer list I could ever have.”  “The physical act of wandering in the church multiplies by many times the number of hours I can pray for the church.” (52)

 

“In long wandering prayer the mind wanders through topics as the body wanders through woods, streets or church halls.” (54)

 

“Whatever else it is, prayer is a form of thinking.”  “The result of this shift from conscious control to subconscious control is that deeper aspects of our thinking are released in our conversation with God.  In true prayer God draws us into prayer, and God draws prayer out of us.” (55)

 

“In long wandering prayer, sights on the outside catalyze visions on the inside.”  “Pictures appear as we pray....”  “This is visionary thinking in the presence of God.”  “When you pray for someone, do you see a picture of him or her in your mind?” (63)

 

“Outer sights [may] trigger inner pictures, which cause painful self-reflection.” (65)  “The ‘deep down’ of spiritual discernment is knowing who we are in relation to who God is.” (66)  “[We] must know honest, inner dialogue with God in order to know honest outer dialogue in community.” (67)

 

“God’s wisdom and will in caring for the ravens and clothing the lilies must become a personal, experienced reality resident in the center of our being; it must become part of our subconscious, mental grid.  ...a presupposition of our everyday common sense.” (69)

 

The church is a better place for prayer than the office with its email, ‘to do’ lists, and sticky notes.  “Solitude isn’t the lack of people and noise; it is the lack of bother.” (74)

 

“To help us toward solitude our sensory environment must in some way work to suspend anxiety and desire—the very things that wreck our inner quiet.” (77)

 

“The presence of God is the best place to talk through anger.  I am grateful for all the things I’ve said to God and to no one else.” “It’s OK to be wrong before God.” (87)

 

“Importunity describes a necessary quality of prayer taught by Jesus.  “To be importunate is to be burdensome, troublesomely urgent, unreasonably solicitous, overly persistent in request or demand, and rude.” (92)  “God asks us to pray as though he must be awakened.” (93)  “Importunity demands industry.  Arguing requires thinking.  Importunate prayer is theological work.”  “Watts tells us to argue our case with reasons drawn from God’s own nature and covenants.” (98)

 

“God may well require a total outpouring of body, mind and soul in prayer as the act of loving him with our body, mind and soul.”  Where is the courage and energy to do this?  Only the Spirit of God can do it. (100)

 

“If God means to work on us in our prayers,...then it ought to be obvious that... [it] will require marathonic prayers.”  ‘If good theology is only good if it is lived out, can it ever be lived out if it is not prayer through?” (102)

 

“Guilt kills prayer.  Real guilt kills prayer but so does worthless guilt.” (107) “In worthless guild we confess actions and attitudes over and over that aren’t wrong.  Worthless guilt is spiritual hypochondria.” (109)

 

“What God cannot abide is our damnable lie that we do not sin.  The sin that kills prayer is the refusal to confess sin.” (107)

 

 “A short attention span does not make us pray short prayers.  A short attention span merely makes us refocus more frequently.  There’s no sin or failure in losing focus and refocusing.” (112)

 

“If you decide to try long prayer as you read this book (hint), start with thirty minutes or an hour.  If thirty minutes stretches you to the limit, straining for an hour will teach you nothing.  Work on sixty minutes only when thirty minutes seems inadequate.  Don’t force long prayer.  Pray shorter until your soul demands longer.  Allow the appetite to grow.” (113)

 

“I don’t know many lazy Christians.  But I know a lot of tired Christians who think they are lazy.”  “Tired Christians tend to be bored Christians.  Boredom is a soul problem.  But often what we feel as boredom is simply the inability to muster the mental strength to pursue something truly interesting.”  “We get bored when we become too tired to pursue the love of life and the love of God.” (115)

 

“Expanding time for prayer by sacrificing time for rest won’t work.  Instead of giving up things I enjoy for prayer, I give up things I don’t enjoy, like yard work.”  (116)

 

“When working hard seems more important than praying hard, then giving up work for prayer is a greater sacrifice than giving up rest for prayer.  The sin of working constantly, excluding time for God, deserved a place in the Ten Commandments.  We argue against the Sabbath command more than all the rest.” (118)

 

“Praying is difficult.  It’s probably the most difficult thing I do.”  “It’s the long prayers that are difficult.  The praying that takes the time to go deeply into my heart—and God’s heart.” (127)  “I’ve decided it’s supposed to be, for its very difficulty forces me back to God, reminds me that I’m entirely dependent on God and his grace to even pray at all.”  “My failure at praying keeps me from taking the credit.” (131)

 

“It is embarrassing to spend so much time doing something that feels like nothing.” (131)

 

“We only pray well out of weakness.  Heartache propels prayer nicely.  But the best prayers come from emptiness.” (133)

 

“It is difficult to give up personal control over our lives in order to trust it to someone else, even someone we can see and argue with, who comes with good references!” (147)

 

“If prayer is precisely this, if it is placing our lives in God’s hand on sheer faith, then we cannot expect this to be pleasant, and we might expect the process to be rather lengthy.  I have no doubt that some of us pray longer than others because it takes us longer to give in.” (147)

 

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