Learning to pray

The Right Way to Pray

from the New York Times

The Brooklyn Tabernacle, a 3,500-seat evangelical prayer palace in downtown Brooklyn, was built in 1918 as one of the largest and grandest vaudeville houses in North America. It is still a hot ticket. Its youngish, racially diverse congregation packs the pews each week to praise God and bask in the sounds of a Grammy-winning 250-voice gospel choir. But the tabernacle is more than just a popular church. It is also a destination for evangelicals from all around the United States and beyond, laymen and ministers alike, who come as acolytes to study prayer.

“Prayer is like other activities,” the Rev. Daniel Henderson told me when we met at the tabernacle the week before Easter. He was visiting Brooklyn with a group of seminary students from Virginia. “You learn from people who are already good at it,” he went on. “The people who pray at the Brooklyn Tabernacle are committed. Praying with them is an education.”

Henderson is a peppy, unassuming man in his early 50s, a Jerry Falwell-trained Baptist minister. After serving for many years as the spiritual leader of a megachurch in suburban Minneapolis, he left the pulpit and founded Strategic Renewal, a nonprofit organization that holds “prayer summits” and how-to-worship seminars around the country. (Henderson was also a contributor to the magazine Pray!, which recently went out of business.) “The fact is, most pastors never learn how to really pray,” he explained. “They get to the seminary, and people just assume they know how to pray. But that’s not true. Prayer is a lot more than reciting words. It requires mastering both theory and technique.”

Comments (1)

I entirely agree with this guy--prayer is a learned activity and it's not often explicitly taught. That aside, I we might have disagreements on other points...

The BCP gives us the foundation for public prayer, even that public prayer that we often do by ourselves, meaning the Daily Office. Furthermore it gives us guidance in presenting us solid models of biblical and catholic praying in our collects-and the constant repetition of the Psalms in the Office. However, even the BCP assumes a knowledge and use of private prayer without providing a whole lot of direction.

The BCP's catechism points out the seven main divisions of prayer: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation,intercession, and petition and gives a two line sketch of each one on pp. 856-7. It does not teach these, though.

I'd recommend Martin Thornton's Christian Proficiency as a basic introduction to prayer in the Anglican tradition--can others suggest additional works?

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