Integrative prayer

By integrative prayer I mean prayer that integrates listening and doing. I.e., the practice of discernment and then action.

Many people seem to think prayer ought to consist of asking God to do things. If it is a part of prayer, this might make sense. On its own, it is probably a mistake.

Jesus was constantly exhorting his listeners to do things. Consider the Our Father, his archetypal prayer. “Thy will be done.” Done by whom? Us. When? Now. We ought to not merely pray for others, but help them, love them, forgive them, and so on. People who miss the dimension of action in their prayers are missing a large point of the spiritual life.

But doing is not enough. Action without discernment is more often than not blind and foolish. Therefore doing implies listening. Prayer centrally involves listening to God, and you can think of this as drawing on the totality of your mental resources. To listen to God is to attune yourself to the information (intuitions, wisdom, reason, empirical data, imagination) within yourself, as illuminated by an on-going, live relationship with or connection to God.

So, the arc is

  1. Discern outcome.
  2. Discern action to take.
  3. Take action. (Note that sometimes this means waiting and letting things play out.)
  4. Repeat.

One part of discernment is not only discerning what action and how to take it, but what it is we ought to be aiming at in the first place. In fact, this part of discernment is probably the most important part.

So, integrative prayer is integrating, or combining, these steps into prayer life on an on-going, everyday basis.

Trusting (‘faith’) God is important for all these steps. If you don’t trust in your relationship with God, why would you turn to Him to discern what you ought to aim for? Similarly, why turn to Him to discern the actions to take once you’ve figured out what to aim for? And if you don’t trust Him, how likely are you to be willing to take (sometimes seemingly risky) actions based on that? So trust is the thread that runs through the steps of integrative prayer.

Trust is gained, like in most relationships, by starting small in the cycle, while simultaneously building a lived, experienced sense of the presence of God in your day to day life. How to do the latter is another, important, topic.

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