Lord Teach Us To Pray
by Andrew Boutros
On a random Tuesday in July 2011 I received a phone call from my dad telling me to book a flight and go to Kenya and I had no idea where Kenya was on the map nor what people do in Kenya. But I decided to go with the idea since I love traveling, little did I know that this mission trip would be the first to many more trips and would be a new milestone in my relationship with God. I was 19 years old in my junior year in collage with no major no purpose and no goal in life. I landed in Kenya August 11th, 2011 not knowing anyone or anything about mission work. The first two days were extremely rough for me since the schedule I had to follow was a very rigorous one. Waking up at 7 to take my quiet time (reading the bible), then prayer then bible study followed by breakfast for 45 minutes. Then we would go out and preach and do outreach from 10 am to 4 pm come back have lunch then two hours of free time followed by prayers, bible study and a small prayer meeting before we sleep! That was way too much for me since I didn’t have a lot of knowledge or any knowledge about the bible at that time and my prayer life was on hold the first two years of college. I had so many questions about the bible and God, but I was never given a satisfying answer, so I was just Christian by name more of an agnostic, believing that God exits but having no relationship whatsoever with Him. On August 13th, 2011 I had my first very fight with God, I was so mad because I felt so useless in the first 2 days in my mission trip, everyone around me seemed to know what they were doing or what to preach EXCEPT me, they had a different kind of joy and zeal for Christ. So, that night I prayed and told Him “God I want this kind of joy that they have, I want you to change my life because I’m sick of the life I’ve been living. Lastly God, if you allowed this change to happen in me, I want people to see Christ in me the rest of my life.” Then the 20 days that I spent in Kenya after that became very different and marked the beginning of a new phase and a new lifestyle. The change that happened in me was more of a mindset change that eventually led to my behaviors to be changed. I started waking up early to take my quiet time and ask questions if I didn’t understand anything. I started praying very small prayers asking Him to teach me how to preach, how to read his word, how to talk to him, and how to maintain this joy. By the end of the 23 days I spent there He made it clear for me that this is the new lifestyle He wanted me to live. BUT it all started with that very first fight with God, that one prayer on August 13th, 2011. God literally held my hands as a Father hold his child’s hand and taught me how to talk to Him, how to listen to Him, and how to follow him one step at a time. I never understood the meaning of praying the Agpya prayers, I used to be always distracted during liturgy because I never understood the depth or the meaning of the prayer, but He made a point to teach me through baby steps.
Sometimes the starting point could be overwhelming. What do I say when I stand in prayer? What do I do for 2 hours at the liturgy? Therefore, we need to understand the difference between all these various types of prayers and the different levels of prayers as well. The church fathers explain to us that there are three levels of prayers, prayers of the mouth, prayers of the mind, and prayers of the heart. Prayers of the mouth is basically the first level of prayer where we just recite the words of prayers without understanding the words, experiencing the depth, or meditating on it. This is the level where all of us start with when we start learning how to pray, you could be at church and just reciting the hymns with the congregation but not necessarily understanding every word that you say. The second level of prayer is the prayer of the mind where you step up the game and start meditating on the words you are saying. You are stopping at some words during your prayer time and meditating on these words even if it’s for few minutes. Then the last level of prayer is the prayer of the heart where you let your mouth, mind, and heart be fully engaged while praying. So, you move from the memorization or recitation level to experiencing more depth and warmth in prayer that you forget yourself, you forget your own needs and requests and you are fully immersed in God’s heart. Throughout our spiritual journey here on earth we typically fluctuate between the three levels, but our aim should always be the prayer of the heart where every part of us is fully occupied with Jesus. If we understand the different levels of prayers and set it as our aim to reach the prayer of the heart, then it eases our way to understand and practice the different types of prayers. The two main types of prayers are the formal prayers and the conversational prayers. The formal prayers are basically the prayers that the church has set for us to reach this union with God such as the liturgical prayers and the Agpya prayers. While the conversational prayers are the heart to heart prayers that you say to God anytime. One analogy that will make it easier to understand these levels and types of prayers and makes it application easy is the seed and tree analogy. If you want to plant a tree, it all starts by throwing a seed in the ground. You need to have patience, right amount of sun light, good soil, right quantity of water every day, and someone to take care of it. So remember that when you start developing your prayer life God will take you through the same journey this tiny seed goes through until it becomes a huge tree that becomes a shelter to many birds and you too will grow a become a giant in the faith and will be a shelter to many people and guide them to Christ. Your heart is the ground and you already have the seed in your heart so pray today that He starts the development process in your heart so you can reach this union with Him.