Loving is the syntax of prayer. To be effective pray-ers, we need to be effective lovers . . . Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth but from falling in love. This is why the great literature on prayer is frankly and wonderfully erotic.
-Richard Foster (Prayer:Finding the Heart’s True Home, Harper Collins, 1992, p. 3)
Did he say what I thought he said? Oh, to reach that level of spirituality someday when I can get away with writing things like that. Somehow, when guys like Richard Foster make a glaring connection between eroticism and the bible’s description of prayer it doesn’t sound naughty like it would had if I had said it. And, he called it “wonderfully” erotic (I feel a little naughty just typing that).
I’m glad he did.
The word syntax makes me think of computer-type stuff. But its primary meaning has to do with language: the study of the rules for the formation of grammatical sentences in a language (dictionary.com).
Have you ever tried to pray but haven’t had the words? It happens to me a lot. If Foster is correct – and I believe he is – in many cases we don’t make a habit of praying because we don’t make a habit of loving God. We can’t form a prayer because we’ve chosen to ignore the building blocks required to create one.
Eroticism isn’t evil, my friends. Have you ever read the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament? That stuff’s actually in the Bible! In its purest form, erotic love is deeply spiritual. It’s about knowing another in a very intimate way. And yes, pleasure plays a significant role.
So here’s the rub. Praying when terrible things happen, like in Newtown, CT last Friday or on September 11, is legit. God uses our trials to draw those who are near and those who are far. The syntax for crying to God in tough times is easy, maybe because we’re already gritting our teeth.
However, another magnificent aspect of communing with God is when our needs may not be so obvious. Either we don’t want to take the time to love God or we don’t know how. I’m suggesting one solution to our problem. Let’s not allow the fear of narcissism keep us from enjoying God, for we can truly know him only when we enjoy him.
And then the words will flow.
So, stop gritting your teeth. Love (and prayer) may be a choice, but it’s not always a chore.