One of the key questions that chuches ask all the time is “how do we do spiritual formation?” Basically, the question is this, “how is it that this church can encourage and help people be formed and shaped into people who are like Jesus?” Usually right away we think of “classes” and “bible studies.” However, I have come to think that we are missing a key and, perhaps, foundational practice. Yep, you guess it: Prayer.

Richard Foster in The Celebration of Discipline writes:

“Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.” (p.33)

Now, let’s pretend its true that most churches struggle with being praying communities. If this is true that we are missing out on the “central avenue” to which God transforms us (according to Foster).

I have been reading a book called “Franciscan Prayer” by Ilea Delio who is a Franciscan Sister and associate professor of ecclesiological history at Washington Theological Union in DC. She says the following about St. Francis’ prayer life,

“as he grew in relationship with God in and through the crucified Christ, so too he entered more deeply into relation with others. He acquired a new vision for the world around him, not that the world had changed, but he had changed because his heart was touched and embraced by a God of diffusive and self-giving love….Francis came to see the poor and lepors in a new way, as images of God’s goodness.”

and

“to pray is to be open to the new, to the future of God. The way to life passes through change and ultimately the change from death to life. Prayer is the way to life because in prayer we are invited to change and grow in love.”

You want spiritual formation? You want to be shaped like Christ? Learn how to pray.

Lord, teach us how to pray. Not only so that you will meet our own wants, needs and desires. But, Lord teach us to pray prayers that change us. That through prayer we may become more like yourself and love others with the love of Christ. Amen.

Lord, Teach us to Pray: Part I, Part II, A Prayerless Church,