This week I reread David Hansen’s book, Long Wandering Prayer. Eight years ago, when I first read it, it drastically changed how I approached my “quiet time.” The common understanding of prayer as only a silent, mental exercise disconnected from the body bored me terribly and seemed so artificial. My best times of prayer have always been while wandering city, hills, forests, and meadows. Hansen’s book gave me the freedom to embrace this way of praying, a way I had been praying since childhood, but never felt fit in the quiet time box.
If you find that prayer seems dull or disconnected from your life, I invite you to walk your prayer–wander your house, your neighborhood, your church building, and pray with your eyes open. Pay attention to what you see and let it lead you into prayer. Pay attention to the sounds, the noisyness of life, and let the Spirit speak to you through the noise. Kids are best at having noisy times with God. Pray with a young person in your life. Dance. Talk out loud to God. Talk back to God. If you need some inspiration, try reading a couple psalms–the psalmists loved to pray with their eyes open and use the created world for prayer images, and they also were not shy in talking to God!
From Long Wandering Prayer by David Hansen:
“The body matters in prayer, as does the physical world around us. We know this yet many of us understand prayer as an exercise in which we should ideally subdue, quiet or otherwise discipline the body so that it reamins dormant while we engage in the spirtual exercise of prayer. There is no question about the fact that prayer is a spiritual exercise. Prayer is in its very essence our soul in communion with the Spirit of God.
The fallacy lies in the idea that the body must be subdued in order for the soul to commune with the Spirit of God. The very term quiet time (the fullest term being quiet time with God) 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 in moving time? Why can’t we say, ‘I had a great noisy time with God this morning.’ I know of no biblical mandate for quiet time. For me, quiet time always turns into sleepy time. I think what we have be calling quiet time should really, be termed alone time.
Doesn’t Jesus tell us to pray in our prayer closet alone? Indeed. He tells us, “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ (Mt 6:6) Jesus tells us to pray in secret, not in quiet. How quiet would that room be? He was probably referring to the pantry or storage room of a small house. The house filled with children, animals, neighbors, and street noise would have provided precious little quiet time. However, alone in the pantry, hearing the glorious cry of a child at play, the parent might well have prayed more fervently for that child than if they had been praying in an insulated room.
Did not Jesus go to the mountain to pray? Absolutely. When did you last pray on a mountain? I prayed on a mountain yesterday, alone. Birds whistled, the river roared, the wind howled, and my heart thumped as I climbed the mountain. Alone with God, I felt quite free to speak out loud. It was not quiet–and my body was not subdued…
Doesn’t it say ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps 46:10)? Yes, it does. But in the context of Psalm 46 the injunction means ‘be still’ in the presence of war’s violent destruction and mountains that are shaking and falling into the heart of the sea. It means to be still in the midst of chaos.”