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Wisdom from Barbara: Cultivating an evolving prayer life

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Words of inspiration written by Barbara Neighbors Deal (1948-2019)

Barbara greets the elders in Kakuuto, Uganda. (May 2019)

I’ve spent my lifetime longing to experience the depths and heights of prayer. I want to discover how prayer works in the world, and how God uses prayer to work in this world. I’ve yearned to have my life evolve into a living prayer, to live that experience that Paul described as to pray without ceasing. So that all, all becomes living prayer.

In the little leaflet called  The Divine Plan, Glenn Clark writes about a choice in prayer, when we pray for ourselves, as “asking the Father for only that which is mine to have.” 

That can be a huge clue to answered prayer, I believe. It is the kind of prayer that says, “Father, I am hopelessly open to your plan for me, and that is ALL I WANT – that which is mine to have.”

This is another way to talk about seeking first the Kingdom, and trusting that all else that we need flows to us because of our priority.

Always be growing spiritually

But I want to share with you something even farther outside mainstream understanding of prayer than this idea. My current understanding of prayer may put me a little outside of the teaching of many churches. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t so far out from your understandings.

Thomas Merton, the great Trappist monk, Christian theologian, and wise mystic, once said something I love about spiritual growth: he said, “If the you of five years ago doesn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually.”   

Barbara greets the daughter of one of the Small Business Fund families in Aboke, Uganda. The Ugandan custom is to kneel and shake hands with respected people. (May 2019)

My understanding of prayer five years ago was different than it is today. And if we’re paying attention to God’s leading at all, our understanding of prayer will be much deeper and fuller five years from now than it is today.

I’m not suggesting that anything I’m sharing with you about prayer – or anything else for that matter – is the final word. It is not the only correct understanding, or anything approaching absolute truth. But rather, I offer this to you as I have experienced it – as an opportunity for learning. 


I’m farther along in my understanding of God’s yearning for relationship with us than I was five years ago. And I expect to be farther along in another five years, as Merton suggests.   

I know that God leads each one of us to the learnings and understandings we need, when we need them. This happens to be the chapter of prayer I’m exploring right now. It is only the view from here, drawn from my experience and what I’ve coming to understand from seeking first the Kingdom.

Barbara swaps stories and shares a laugh with Milly in Aboke, Uganda.

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