You know prayer could be so much more -- but there are those distractions.
You want your relationship with God to go deeper, but your mind drifts.
Life just presses in.
Work. Kids. Aging parents. Losses and crises.
Is it possible to develop a rhythm of prayer that keeps you centered in Christ?
Are there ways for busy people to actually enjoy the presence of God?
My online class teaches ways to pray that will help you focus.
Every approach we will try out has stood the test of time. Each has deep roots in authentic discipleship. Each has changed the lives of thousands -- or millions -- for centuries.
- You will learn to focus by praying with Scripture.
- You will learn to focus by using your mind, and heart, and imagination.
- You will learn to prayerfully focus on your life -- and that will help you bring more of yourself into relationship with God.
Make this Lent the time of prayerful renewal you need it to be.
What we WILL do:
- We will learn about and "try on" approaches from three great branches of the Christian faith: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox.
- We will keep it practical and manageable -- we'll each spend 15 minutes per day actually praying in the ways taught by great teachers of the past.
- We will use three chapters from my award-winning book Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History's Best Teachers (InterVarsity, 2012).
- We will have weekly video lectures to introduce the week's approach to prayer.
- We will build community in a private discussion forum -- that way we support each other in the journey and learn from each other's experiences.
That little bit of daily prayer practice is crucial.
You can't learn to ride a bike by just reading a book; you have to push off and pedal.
You can't learn how to succeed in marriage just by reading a book; you have to enter into relationship.
And you can't grow in prayer by just gathering information.
You learn to pray by praying, trying on new approaches, and reflecting on the experience.
What we WON'T do:
- I won't make any false promises about how to get God to answer all your prayers. (Instead we'll build deeper, more honest relationships with God.)
- We won't be solving all the intellectual puzzles and paradoxes about prayer. (Instead we'll pray, and that melts many of the problems away.)
- We won't explore every way of praying Christians have ever thought of -- not even all ten of the approaches in Kneeling with Giants. (We'll focus on three traditions with two weeks on each, and every week's way of praying will be noticeably different from the others.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I'm a pastor and Lent is intense. Can I do the class later?
A. That makes perfect sense. Though registration closes at the end of Ash Wednesday, you don't have to access the course until you are ready. My aim is for it to remain available to you as long as I have the website. And if a bunch of folks decide to do the class after Easter, I'll even help you set up a discussion group in the forum.
Q. I'm an introvert. I don't want to post in the forums.
A. I understand -- I was online a long while before I started posting. You are not at all required to post in the forums. They are there to help you. Some may want to build friends there, learn from each other, and support each other. However you are totally free to just watch the videos and explore the prayer practices on your own.
Q. I already have a quiet time. How will this fit in?
A. If your devotional time is at least 15 minutes long, you can do the class "prayer homework" then -- so long as you are willing to try on new practices in that time. Of course if you don't already have a daily prayer time, you'll need to add one, at least for Lent. But that is what the class is for, right?
Q. Why is prayer something that needs to be taught? CAN it even be taught?
A. There is a sense that prayer ought to be natural -- we were created for relationship with God, after all. But our nature is damaged by sin, and so not everything "natural" is "easy." The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1) and Paul said we don't know how to pray as we should (Romans 8:26). And in the time since the Bible was written, followers of Christ have discovered a rich variety of ways to go deeper with God in prayer. That's stuff that really can be taught -- and it needs to be taught, because countless people struggle with prayer. They may be new to faith, or they may have been taught that there is only one "right" way to pray, but found it didn't fit them.
Q. Why do you charge money for the class?
A. Teaching and writing are my paid work. I do provide a lot of free materials here on my site -- at least one new article per week, free ebooks and other offers. But when I teach in seminaries and churches, or lead retreats, or speak at conferences, I get paid for taking time to help people learn and grow. It is the kind of thing Paul was talking about in 1 Cor. 9:9-14 and 1 Tim. 5:17-18.
The same thing applies for classes I teach on my own website. Charging for the class helps recoup the cost of my website. Plus it helps me buy useful things. You know: food, clothes and stuff like that. (Plus, people who pay to take a course are much more likely to take it seriously.)
Q. Is this just the history of prayer?
A. No. We will look at people from the past and listen to what they said about how to pray. But more importantly we will spend time praying as they taught. Each way of praying will be different from the others.
Q. Will there be homework?
A. Yes, but it won't be graded! Each week you watch the video, read a bit of Kneeling with Giants, and pray as instructed for about 15 minutes per day. There are also discussion forums for those who want to chat with others about your experience and reflections.
Q. Will there be a way to share discussion and reflection with other participants?
A. Yes, I'm setting up discussion forums. Not everyone will want that, but I think those who join a discussion group will get the most out of the class. (If necessary we can divide into smaller discussion groups.)
Q. How much time will I need to put into this?
A. If you do it per instructions, each week will be about 20 minutes of video, a chapter or half-chapter of my book, and 15 minutes per day of praying. Hopefully you already pray that much, but if not it will add a daily prayer time to your schedule.
Q. Do I need a copy of Kneeling with Giants
A. Having the book will help a lot. People will be able to follow the instructions from lectures and stuff within the course, but reading the book will add another kind of input and will frankly be able to give more depth than I can in the lectures.
Q. Do I need to be tech savvy, or to have taken previous online courses?
A. No, you don't need to be techy, and you don't need any special programs. The class is on my website, so it will appear within whatever browser you use to visit websites. I use Safari and Chrome browsers with my site and both work well. I can't vouch for other browsers but I don't anticipate problems.
Q. How will I find my way around the class?
A. Navigating the class is basically a matter of looking for the on-screen instructions and clicking relevant links. The right sidebar will have a link to each week of the class. Once you are in a particular week, navigation links for that week are at the bottom of the page -- One for the video lecture, one for reading and praying instructions, and one to get to the discussion forums.
Q. Do I have to watch the lectures at a particular time or schedule time with other group members to make the discussions work?
A. No, you do every part of the class whenever you want. There is a new lecture and reading assignment for each week. I'll try to shepherd the discussion by putting up new topics and questions each week. You can come in once or twice during the week to read and post -- or more often if you want.
Q. Can I take the course with a friend (or a small group)?
A. The course is sold for individual use only. But if you want to go through it with others, you and your friend (or all the members of your group) can purchase it individually. (Let me know if you do, and I can give your group its own space in the discussion forum.)
Q. Is your site secure for taking my online payment?
A. Yes. If you look at the URL for the page you'll see that I have HTTPS encryption, and in some browsers you'll see a little padlock symbol by the URL to show it is safe.
Q. Can I pay with PayPal? A credit card?
A. Yes! You will see the PayPal and credit card options on the checkout page.
Q. Will I get a receipt?
A. Yes. It will come by email immediately after you register. Some have found this receipt got stuck in their junk mail folder or spam filters, so you may need to look for it.
Q. Will signing up for this class put me on your mailing list?
A. You will get added to an email for online class alumni. This is so I can communicate by email with the class, and also will allow me to let you know about future classes when they launch. Every email will have an easy unsubscribe link. And of course I will not share your information or spam you.
"No dry academic, Gary is an engaging speaker who held his audience right to the end. With his rare combination of an historian’s mind and a pastor’s heart, … His winsome style, poignant illustrations ... undergirded a very practical presentation for all those wanting to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength."
–Bill Ditewig, Minister of Adult Discipleship, Mission and Evangelism, Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Santa Ana, California
Kneeling with Giants
"Devotional Book of the Year," from UK booksellers' association Christian Resources Together.
"Best Book of the Year on Spirituality," from Hearts and Minds Books.
"We invited Gary to lead us in how to pray and be leaders of prayer, but what we got was so much more! … what he said and what he did was so compelling and transforming."
—Sarah Dyck, Discipleship Consultant, Presbytery of East Iowa
If, before the official end of the class at Easter, you regret signing up, I'll refund your money with a smile.
Of course. I want you to be happy.
Here are some of the topics we'll dive into:
- How to have a meaningful time of prayer in an impossibly complicated life.
- How to create a structure for your life of prayer without becoming a monk.
- How to pray so that you listen to God -- without being fooled by the voices of your fears and wants.
- How to let Scripture help focus your prayer life -- ways it helps your side of the conversation as well as God's.
- How to jump-start your prayer life when you don't know what to say.
- And, of course, you'll discover how fun it is to explore prayer with the good company of other open-minded lovers of Christ -- people like you, who want to learn from history and cross the lines of denominations!