And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
The customs of different cultures are fascinating. When I lived among the Zulus I was captivated by how loudly they spoke and how they’d comfortably hold lengthy conversations with each other even when they were a few hundred metres apart. In Western culture it’s somewhat frowned upon to be shouting back and forth. Westerners usually make an attempt to get close enough to talk in moderate tones, but Zulus consider it bad manners to speak quietly. They reason that if a person is speaking softly, then they may be gossiping or maligning someone. So the Zulus make a point of speaking loudly, and I might add, usually animatedly and passionately, enabling everyone to hear what they’re saying. In so doing they have witnesses who (should the need arise) are able to testify that nothing inappropriate or slanderous was said.
So some of us speak loudly and some of us speak softly when we’re conversing with one another. But how do we speak when we’re talking to God? Koreans connected with the Assembly of God tradition pray passionately, in their own words, out loud and all at the same time (‘Korean’ Prayer). In contrast, many Catholics pray quietly or silently, utilizing a prayer book or rosary as a guide and prompt to their prayers.
Interestingly, there’s a central African tribe where the people have special places that they go to for their daily prayers. The villagers clear paths through the bush to secluded spots which become their places of prayer. Each person has their own path, to be used only by the individual. Whenever someone forgets or neglects to pray, their path becomes overgrown. It soon becomes apparent who is or isn’t praying. All that’s needed to gently encourage a person to return to prayer is for a friend to say, “I see there’s grass on your trail.”
Is there grass on your trail? The Bible says, “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God . . .” (Deuteronomy 8:11). In Africa, life seems to be less hurried, certainly in the rural villages. In Western nations life is generally a rushed affair, propelled along by the urgent. Are you too busy to pray? If you are, then maybe the best thing you can do during Lent is to slow down and tend to your trail . . . to clear away whatever’s encroaching on your time of prayer and solitude with the Father.