Excuse me, I am learning french. Can I practice speaking french with you?
"Mais oui! La meilleure façon d'apprendre le français est de pratiquer le parler."
Of course, the best way to learn french is to practice speaking it.
And so began my attempt to 'speak' french with a group of young French people who just happened to be sitting on the floor of the hotel lobby. My initial excitement was quickly curbed. I was in over my head. They were all rather excited that an American wanted to speak French with them. And when French get excited (or any nationality I suppose), they tend to speak rather quickly. I was quite lost. I lasted about 10 minutes.
I have been trying to re-learn french for about a month now, in preparation to go to Dominica for a mission trip. Though I was told everyone in Dominica speaks English, I still wanted to brush up. A friend from church has been helping me. She has taught French at the college level so I felt lucky to have her spend the time teaching me. I also downloaded a conversational french app for my phone. But, my conversational skills were not coming along as I had hoped. I can read French fairly well, and understand someone speaking French somewhat (if they speak in the equivalent of a slow southern drawl-something the French do not do!) But to just start rattling off a conversation in French...nope...I am woefully inadequate. The young French girl in the hotel lobby was right. The best way to learn French (or any language) is simply to practice speaking it.
"The best way to learn any language is to simply practice speaking it".
When I mulled that sentence over in my mind, I thought not just of learning French but of learning the language of faith, the language by which we communicate with God, which we call prayer. I do not know where the phrase 'The language of faith' originated, but I used it when I wrote a Bible study titled, 'Lord, Teach us to Pray, an in depth study on the Lord's prayer".
When I first became a Christian, I had much difficulty with prayer. Whether it was because I wasn't raised in a home where prayer was frequent, or that while growing up I attended churches where prayers seemed rote or memorized or scripted for a particular occasion, I just didn't have a model to follow, and consequently I felt awkward in prayer. I also was the ultimate multi tasker, and had a hard time shutting my brain down to just one thing, that being talking to God. My mind wandered and I was so easily distracted. A friend suggested writing down my prayers, and that helped. But I had never been the type to keep a diary or a journal, so writing down my prayers was often hit and miss.
So how did I go from that poor beginning to writing a Bible study on prayer? Like the young French girl said, to learn a language you must practice. So I did, at least I kept trying. I was too stubborn to give up when my prayer life seemed to languish. I just did not want shallow prayers. It was from rough patches in my life, and having fears or concerns for those I love, that I really learned to pour my heart out in prayer. There have been times in my life that I felt prayer was just as needed to me as air to breathe. Through times like that, and the dogged determination to pray, the 'pray without ceasing' kind of prayers, I began to be able to pray without my mind wandering. I learned the value of quiet moments, turning off the sounds, the music, all the noise, and just talking with God. (Something we do not do enough of in this 'hooked on devices' society!) So my quiet moments came in the car, in the shower, while cooking, on long walks or runs, where ever and whenever. I asked God to help me focus my wandering, multi tasking mind, and I did my part by turning of the external noise. And He answered that prayer. God helped me learn to communicate much more deeply with Him.
While I do feel much more fluent in prayer than I did before, I know I have barely scratched the surface. I am also keenly aware that it is dependent on me to continue to exercise that spiritual discipline or my prayers can become shallow and my mind will again wander aimlessly. I am reminded that at one time in my life, I was almost fluent in French and now I am not. I have learned that this language of faith, prayer, must be practiced often. I have learned the more you use it, the more natural it becomes. I have also learned it is a conversation. It is not just you talk and He listens. It is also He talks (through His word) and you listen. What a treasure we have, what a gift we have been given, to be able to converse with our Creator!
If you desire to have a deeper prayer life, if you wish to grow in prayer, just ask Him.
And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had
finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord teach us how to pray, just as John also taught His disciples". Luke 11: 1 (Emphasis mine)
So, how are you doing in prayer? Parlez-vous le langage de la foi? If you want to practice, and learn more about prayer, a Bible study is available, free at this web site. Click on the Bible study page, then click on the Lord teach us to pray Bible study. A new chapter will be uploaded weekly. Please contact me with any questions or if you just want to start a conversation. I would love to hear from you, and grow right along with you.