I used to think I knew how to pray. Then life required desperate prayer, and I thought I really learned what it meant to pray.
Now that I’ve lived lots of years and lots of life, I realize I know almost nothing about praying. Prayer is a wonder I can’t comprehend. I feel woefully inadequate and terribly ineffective—does anything happen when I pray?
Yet I pray.
Here are some of the ways I pray. This is not a formula. There is no order, because life in the moment dictates how I come to the Lord, what I say, what position I’m in.
We’ll start with one of my favorite ways to pray: walking on the beach. An hour conversation with my God, with the sand in my toes, the waves lapping my ankles, the ocean masking nearby sounds. I usually ask, "What do you want to say to me?" But sometimes I start with, "I have something to say . . ."
I almost always pray with great honesty. I find it’s good to tell God the truth—He knows it anyway. The beach is a good place to yell out my anger or fear or confusion. My home when no one else is there works as well. He always listens patiently and responds compassionately, reminding me of truths I know, of what He is like, of how I need to respond.
Sometimes I fall on my face—literally—in awe that the God of the universe would invite me into His presence, to talk with Him, to share my heart, to listen to His. I am so unworthy, yet He treasures me and wants me with Him!!
I might drop to my knees and cry out, begging God to choose to do what I know He can do. Would he please heal, or rescue, or provide, or change things? Change a mind or a heart or a situation? Jesus says he responds to those who cry out day and night. So I do.
Many times, like David describes in Psalms, my tears have soaked my pillow. “Help me, Lord.”
I pray by myself and with others. I pray through Scripture. I read aloud prayers written by others. I raise my hands in worship.
Of course I have interceded on behalf of those I love, friends and coworkers, our leaders, world situations, those needing justice . . . and many other people, needs, events.
And gratefully, one of my most frequent prayers is “Thank You, Lord.” I have taken seriously the admonition to give thanks in all things, and oh the difference it has made in all the above prayers.
I thank Him? Does He answer me, that I should say thanks? Well yes, He answers, though sometimes my hearing is not so good. Often He says no, not a good idea. Often He says yes, but it usually looks a little different than what I had in mind. Most often he says, “I have a better idea.”
He is rarely in a hurry, but always on time—from His great knowledge and love. My saying "Thank You" affirms that I believe He is God and He is good. And in my experience those little words are like a key to open a door for God to work.
I’ve experienced some amazing answers to prayer. I've seen people healed in heart and body. I’ve enjoyed remarkable community praying with others.
And yes, sometimes God seems silent. I feel like I know nothing about praying. I grow weary of waiting.
Then, once again, my Abba Daddy invites me into His embrace, into His heart. We talk and listen and cry and laugh.
How sweet is that!
What about you? What are some ways you pray?
CC Image • anna gutermuth on Flickr