How do I pray? I don’t know what to say . Is there anyone out there that has felt the same hesitation towards their prayer time?
My first introduction to prayer was the Lord’s Prayer. I’m thankful for my early school years where in our classrooms we began each day by singing “Oh Canada”, followed by “God Save the Queen” and then in unison we recited the Lord’s Prayer. Little did I know that a foundation of beginning each day in prayer was set for me at a very young age. Admittedly though, when the school board discontinued this practice, I didn’t end up revisiting prayer until I was well into my thirties!
As a young Christian my prayers to God felt disjointed. I didn’t pray regularly and found myself reaching out only when I was in a crisis. I focused on myself and generally asked God to change my current situation to something I felt was better. I dreaded the thought of being asked to pray in front of others. I felt inadequate as I compared their eloquent words to my desperate attempt at sounding like them. It felt like each time I sat down to pray that I was doing it all wrong. I would say a few words and then get distracted by another thought and before I knew it I was thinking of what I needed to pick up at the grocery store the next day! It was a frustrating experience that left me feeling like a failure.
Over the years God has refined my experience with prayer. There have been people in my life that have shared ideas that have helped to strengthen my prayer time. I’ve tried many different methods and still use some of these tools today. A few things that have helped me are:
- journalling during my prayers and writing letters to God
- following the format of A.C.T.S. – Adoration: Give God praise and honor for who he is as Lord over all. Confession: Honestly deal with the sin in your prayer life. Thanksgiving: Verbalize what you’re grateful for in your life and in the world around you. Supplication: Pray for the needs of others and yourself.
- having simple short conversations with God throughout my day
I also found as I immersed myself in God’s word my prayers became more natural. I started incorporating more scripture into my conversations with God. One of my favorite little devotion books is written by Stormie Omartian. If you struggle with prayer this book is a great tool. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened the book to the perfect prayer for the moment!
My prayers are more personal today than when I said the Lords Prayer next to my desk in elementary school. Matthew 6:6 tells us to
“… when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you,
and pray to your Father in private.
Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Although I find I have conversations with God all day long, the most effective time and place for me to connect with God is in a quiet place, by myself. I love the fresh start of a new day. When the house is empty I sit down with my bible and pray. By setting up the right environment my attention is not diverted and I open myself up to hearing God’s responses.
About four years ago I started a prayer blanket ministry at our church. Members of the ministry range from young teenagers up to grandmothers! We knit and crochet blankets and shawls and present them to members of our congregation and community to provide support for them while they are facing a challenging situation or are celebrating a happier time in their lives. As the members create the blankets they pray for each recipient. This ministry has been a blessing to all who have received blankets but also to the members of the group as they have had many opportunities to pray for others.
Recently I had the privilege of crocheting a prayer blanket for a dear friend of mine who was facing some health issues. I found the time I devoted to this blanket to be so rewarding. As I reflect on my experience I think it also provides a wonderful example to the question, “How do I pray?”.
The time I spent on this blanket was so peaceful. Sometimes I worked in complete silence and prayed over her throughout each stitch I made. Other rows were completed while I simply sang along to my favorite songs and worshipped our heavenly father. At times when I had no words God guided my prayers through the words of old hymns. I had many conversations with God about my friend. I marvelled at the fact that he orchestrated a reunion between us after the many years we spent apart. I prayed for promising test results for her. I prayed for the surgeons that were performing her surgery. I prayed for peace of mind and the comfort of God’s presence as doubts lingered in her head. My prayers for her quite often transitioned into prayer for others. I prayed for her husband as he walked through this experience as well. My thoughts often returned to gratitude for all that He has provided us. I prayed for my family. At times I was led to even pray for myself. What I loved about my time creating this blanket was the intimate time I had with God. There were no rules for the conversation, there was no judgement. I started out praying for my friend and as conversations go, I ended up thinking and praying for others!
This prayer blanket ministry has been a blessing to me. It has allowed me to combine my passion for knitting with my love for others and spending personal time with God. I still get nervous when I pray in front of others and at times I stumble on my words, but I do it now. I remind myself each time that I am speaking to God and not those around me. I have found peace in my prayer time as I’ve discovered there is no single right way to pray. God just longs for is for me to connect with Him. He longs for my heart felt prayers, whether they are disjointed or not.