Searching for Simple and Reliable

[I'm working on the Introduction to Live Prayerfully: Three Time-Proven Ways Ordinary Lives Become Prayerful. The general of the aim of the book is to provide guidance on historic practices of prayer in simple ways. Below is an excerpt from the Introduction discussing the need for guidance that is both simple and reliable, though that can often be difficult to find.]

In all of our lives, we inevitably look for guidance from others, whether personally or through books and other media. Sometimes the guidance we get is simple but perhaps not as reliable as we need it to be. For example, it turns out that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” isn’t as true as people would have us believe. I went through a stretch of my life where I ate apples almost every day, usually dipped in mounds of peanut butter, or perhaps together with oatmeal and cinnamon sugar under a pile of ice cream, or (my favorite) in a dessert my wife makes together with gobs of cool whip and pieces of Snickers bars. I followed the advice to have an apple a day pretty well during those years, but for some reason, while eating those apples in these ways, it was in that same period of time that I went from having recently been a college athlete to hardly being able to even think about running down and back on a basketball court. The doctors visits ensued, despite all the apples I consumed. The advice regarding apples was simple, but not as reliable as goobers like me need it to be.

On the other hand, we’ve all probably also had experience with advice that is reliable, but not simple enough. If I start having car problems, I can walk into my local auto parts store and locate the thick printed repair guide for my car’s make and model. I will have no idea how to do what it says. That does not mean its guidance is unreliable, but it just is not simple enough for me.

Thankfully, though, there is another kind of advice. The best advice we receive in life, the kind that sticks with us for decades and that we make sure to pass on to our kids and grandkids, is that which is both simple and reliable. Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps have been helpful to me and millions of others for this reason. Or, I’ll never forget sitting with my college pastor as I was preparing to graduate and had the sudden realization that I would no longer be allowed to live in the dorm, eat in the cafeteria and attend classes, but would soon have to find another way to live. As the variety of options seemed rather overwhelming to me, his simple and reliable advice was, “Just make sure you’re in God’s will today and you won’t miss being in it tomorrow.” It was simple and reliable; I’ve never forgotten it and continue to work at shaping my life around it.

From my experience, the need for simple and reliable guidance when we seek to learn to pray is just as needed as in any other part of our lives. Guidance that is described by one end or the other of the simple/reliable spectrum abounds, but guidance that is described by both ends can seem hard to find. So, after having spent quite a bit of time seeking guidance on prayer from sources all across that spectrum, my goal in this book is to pass on the some of the most reliable parts of it in simple ways. So, we will take a look at three time-proven ways that ordinary lives have become prayerful:

  • Praying With Other People’s Words
  • Praying Without Words
  • Praying With Your Own Words