Prayer is much broader than saying something to God. That’s a good partial summary of prayer. But there are, at least, two things that would enrich that summary. The first is small, the second a lot larger.
First, as much as prayer is about talking to God, it is also about God talking back. Some people have trouble with that. After all, God talking back can be problematic.
It’s hard to know when God’s talking. It’s hard not to blame things on God after you’ve gotten adjusted to this God-back-talking. People have said that God has said a lot of suspicious things. Plus, there’s the problem of that creative utterance. In the scriptures, when God speaks, things move, people live, people die, worlds that weren’t become. God’s speech is full and capable and hardly tentative.
Back to the second part about prayer: it is communicating with God whether or not there are words. There is a passage in the New Testament that encourages what Eugene Peterson calls “prayerfulness.” The passage says that we should pray without stopping, pray all the time, pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Commentators split about what this means in the pastoral letter, and the way Peterson comes to such language is by talking about prayerfulness.
Prayer is at the center of the Rule of Life. Communicating with God, you talking to God and God talking to you, is the assumption of the Rule. Of course, if God communicates with us, then we can hear what God says. We can keep in the direction of God. We can continue listening to the various ways God will speak. Even when there aren’t words, we can train ourselves and our gestures in God’s direction. We can add things which help us attend to God. We can remove things that take such full-awareness-of-God away.
The act of preparing a Rule, then, can be prayerful. Breathing and whispering for God to guide you as you think about what to do and what not to do is as much prayer as anything. Waiting for that guidance is prayer too. Waiting all day long, opening yourself up, is prayer too. Do you get the picture?
So, whisper that in your own way: what should I do, God? What should I focus on?
You’re already surrounding the creation of your Rule in prayer. And now, start listening.