David McIntyre (1859 – 1938) was a Scottish preacher. In 1913, he came principal of the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow. He wrote several books, but what he’s best remembered for is a small volume entitled The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Life-Blood of the Christian.
Starting today over at Informing the Reforming, Tim Challies is leading a discussion of this Christian classic. I’ve just started reading it, and I’m struck by several things, not the least of which is that the book is written for a well-read, well-educated Christian audience.
A number of years ago, we attended a church that was meeting at a local Christian school while the church building was planned and then constructed. Sundays were harum-scarum days, with teams of people moving furniture, setting up meeting spaces, putting 300 folding chairs in the gym for the worship service (and often pulling out the bleacher seats). Children and adults alike had Sunday School classes in classrooms or any usable space available.
An adult class on prayer was being offered. Praying – and praying in public – was not something that came naturally to me. I was raised a stern Lutheran; the pastor prayed while the rest of us bowed our heads. But I felt the need to go beyond passiveness, and I jumped into the class. Thinking there would be some protection from embarrassment in numbers.
Including the teacher and his wife, there were five of us in the class. I couldn’t hide in the crowd.
It turned out to be less painful than I expected. In fact, it wasn’t painful at all. I prayed aloud (in front of others!) the same way I prayed alone – like I was having a conversation with God. Just simple conversation, simple talk. Reverent, yes, but still like a conversation.
I should say that my expectation in this conversation is not that I hear a voice coming back at me. A lot of the time – most of the time – it seems a one-way conversation, with me doing all the talking. But I suspect that’s the case for most of us.
The thing about prayer, which McIntyre calls “the life-blood of the Christian,” is that it’s often a one-way conversation. And that’s the point. We bring our troubles and our joys, our needs and our pains. Yes, we’d like them all taken care of nicely (and quickly), but things rarely work out that way. Instead, we hear the silences.
But in those silences, we know we’re being heard.
To join in the discussion on The Hidden Life of Prayer, please visit Tim Challies at Informing the Reforming.