Wandering Prayer

“…prayer is a form of thinking. In long wandering prayer, we let our subconscious generate our thinking in prayer, we open up our vast personal wilderness before God.” - David Hansen

I am not a contemplative. Nor will I probably ever be.

I’ve struggled over the years with prayer and particularly with the guilt of not being able to spend large blocks of time in focused intercession. Some of the popular concepts of spiritual formation (as I understand them) and the templates for what really spiritual people do when it comes to prayer and solitude simply have never been a fit for me.

So it has been with great pleasure that I finally found someone else who understands and can identify with my frustration and sense of failure. David Hansen, in his book, Long Wandering Prayer, has introduced me to a whole new perspective on intimacy with God that defines and approaches prayer in what, for me, is doable. It’s liberating.

Essentially, he advocates utilizing the body and the physical world as an integral, essential ingredient of extended prayer …running, walking, being outside in nature, and actively engaging God in my thoughts and thinking in the process. It’s what I’ve done for years but never considered legitimate. He writes:

We have construed prayer as something so preposterously body depriving, so mind-numbingly inactive that it is impossible to imagine praying for eight hours and still have a heartbeat.

We pray body and soul and no other way. The body is neither the prison of the soul nor the enemy of prayer, though we have treated it as such. Instead of denying the body in prayer, we must deny bodyless prayer …

I dare say that David himself would have fallen asleep trying to do what we call prayer for more than ten minutes. Rather, he danced.

The very term “quiet time” implies this very thing – that we go to a quiet place and quiet the body so that we can be with God in quiet. Why can’t we call it “noisy time?” Why can’t we call it “moving time” …I see no biblical mandate for “quiet time.” For me, “quiet time” always turns into ”sleepy time.” Jesus tells us to pray in secret, not in quiet.

If you quit praying when your mind begins to wander, perhaps you are quitting before you have even begun to know God in prayer.

Undoubtedly, my reactions are those of a frustrated “activist” who continues to grapple with how spiritual formation is most effective in light of my gifts and temperament. Perhaps some of you are similar. If so, this volume may help set you free. As Eugene Peterson says: “Dave Hansen frees us to pray the way we can instead of urging us to pray the way we can’t.”

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Long Wandering Prayer by David Hansen

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