Amid much talk to the contrary, the fact is that there are no secrets to living out the Christian life. No prerequisite attitudes. No conditions more or less favorable to pursuing the Way. Anyone can do this, from any place, starting at any time.
But it never takes place without prayer. Prayer is basic. Prayer is basic because it provides the primary language for everything that takes place on the way of Jesus. If we go to a shopping mall in North America, we speak English to get what we want. If we go to a restaurant in France, we speak French to order our meal. If we travel in Greece, we speak Greek to find our way to the Acropolis. And if we decide to become Christians and follow Jesus, we pray. We pray because it is the only language we have for speaking to the God revealed in Jesus. It is also the only language we have for listening to the commands and blessings and guidance that God provides through Jesus. God is nothing if not personal. Both God and we humans are most personal, most characteristically our unique selves, in our use of language. When language has to do with God and us, us and God, we call it prayer.
What I want to insist on is that prayer is not something added on to the Christian life (or any life for that matter). It is the language in which that life is lived out, nurtured, developed, revealed, informed; the language in which it believes, loves, explores, seeks, and finds. There are no shortcuts or detours. Prayer is the cradle language among those who are “born anew” and then the intimate, familiar, developing language of growing up to follow the way of Jesus.
But because in our secularized society prayer is often associated with what people of ”spiritual” interests pursue or with formal acts conducted by professional leaders, it is necessary from time to time to call attention to the fact that prayer is the street language that we use with Jesus, who walks the streets with us. We can’t put off prayer until we “get good at it.” It is the only language available to us as we bring our unique and particular selves, “just as we are without one plea,” into the daily, hourly speaking and listening to God who comes “just as he is” in Jesus.
Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way, 264-265.
*”Prayer: as basic, 264″ found (after losing page) in “Index of Subjects and Names,” 282.