I wish prayer was as easy as waving a magic wand or following a 3 step formula. Don’t tell anyone, but I think prayer is hard sometimes.
I believe in prayer. I believe in the power of prayer because I have experienced it personally for 40+ years. Originally I bought in to the seemingly crazy idea of talking to a Being who I could not see because my mom said talking to God was a good thing to do and I trusted her. I have continued to pray because I feel calmer and more peaceful when I pray and I know my life works better during the seasons when I make prayer a regular part of the journey. After years of research on the topic, I have no doubts about the importance of prayer for me.
Despite my certainty, I am just not very good at prayer. Praying does not come naturally or easily for me. Although I consider the practice worth the effort, I have to admit I often find it frustrating I am still struggling with prayer after all these many years. Some days, it feels like I am turning circles when I pray. My mind drifts, I lose track of my thoughts, I forget what I was saying, I repeat myself and I wander away before I finish the conversation. If I behaved similarily while talking to a person, my conversation partner might recommend evaluation and adult supervision.
Luckily, God is very patient with me because he is crazy about me and thinks I am adorable.
On other days when I pray, if I can stick with it long enough and be patient with myself, I experience a connection with divine love and goodness I know is God. In these moments, I am certain of his love for me and I know he is completely on my side. These glimpses of God keep me coming back and sustain me on the days when the feelings I experience don’t match what I know to be true and real. Even when I don’t feel God’s presence, I believe with every fiber of my being he is there. The habit of prayer is how I remember how much God loves me.
Prayer matters and is worth the effort so I keep praying even though prayer is sometimes a struggle. If you also find prayer to be difficult sometimes, here are a few strategies I have found helpful over the years:
Pray with others – During the seasons of my life when I have found solo prayer particularly difficult, I have been surprised to find praying with other people helped. Something about the power of Spirit connecting all of us to one another helps me to stay focused and experience the presence of God in a more tangible way. Often I find others have the words to express the desires of my heart I was struggling to find prior to hearing them speak. The sense of community and connection with others is an added benefit of choosing to join other people in prayer.
Write your prayers- I am a visual person. With the people in my life, I prefer to be able to see their face when we are speaking and have always found I am much more easily distracted during phone conversations. Along the same lines, I can only listen to audio books when my eyes are occupied driving a car. Writing my uncensored prayers out in a journal is a way I have found to speak to God in a way which engages my eyes, heart and mind. Whether I save the journal to reflect on later or throw it in the trash after I pray, the practice of writing helps me pour out my heart to God when my monkey mind won’t cooperate.
Go for a walk- The purpose of prayer is to draw closer to God, not tell God what I need. Nothing I have to tell God is a surprise to him anyway since he knows my thoughts before I do. Scripture is clear God wants us to come to him constantly and for any reason, but I’m beginning to believe words aren’t always a necessary part of the equation. For years I have gone on walks on the beach with God when we are on vacation, but I have just recently begun going on prayer walks on the wooded trails near my house. A sense of gratitude and an open heart as I experience his beautiful creation around me create a wordless prayer and a deeper experience of his presence. Just like the treasured friend with whom no words are necessary, I am beginning to cherish opportunities to simply BE with God.
Centering prayer– Another practice of praying without words I have recently been exploring is centering or contemplative prayer. Sometimes I set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and attempt to simply listen to God. Because I am a big talker by nature, this practice can be particularly challenging for me so I use a repetitive word or phrase to attempt to stay focused. Phrases from scripture such as Be still and know can be meaningful. I also like the word Maranatha, which means Come Lord in Aramaic. Centering prayer is a new practice for me, so I am still learning and trying to be patient with my awkwardness and fumbling efforts.
One word prayers– My life works best when I try to stay connected to God all day long. While starting my day with prayer is a practice I try to maintain, I am beginning to believe one word prayers throughout the day are just as important. Whispers of help, thank you, wow, show me, or send me throughout our day keep us tethered to Spirit and help us to see the better path. Here is a wonderful list of 10 one word prayers I recently found. On the days I remember to keep praying, one word at time, I find a sense of peace and stability which is lacking on the other days.
YOUR TURN! Share with us in the comments below the ways in which you stay connected to God through prayer. What are your strategies, practices, disciplines or tips?