Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Basics of Prayer

I will start by saying that I am not an expert. I haven't got any special training or unique experiences that in any way make me someone that anyone else should listen to about prayer. I'm not a pastor, I'm not a seminary student. I don't get any special stars for the depth of my faith or for my outwardness of my spiritual living.

When it comes to prayer and to faith - I'm really just the same as anyone else.

I preface today because I don't want anyone to think that I think that I somehow know more than someone else. The beauty of a blog is that I'm just sharing myself. My own thoughts and opinions.

Prayer is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I blogged about it on Monday.

Sidebar - go read that post from Monday. I have to tell you that I had my mind blown when I had an IMMEDIATE result from the person I had prayed for that very day. I'm not saying that there is an end-all fix to the stresses and annoyances of that person. But God most definitely did some work in me and in that person on that day!

Prayer, to me, is time spent in communication with God.  Sometimes, I do a lot of talking. I sometimes have a list of people I am praying for, situations I am praying for. Sometimes, I just sit and wait. This isn't listening. It's waiting. It's just being open, being in awe, sending and receiving love.  Sometimes, I just listen.  Sometimes, I pray through worship. I sing, I listen to music. Sometimes, I pray as a group in church. Sometimes, I pray while holding my daughter's hand.

I've seen a lot of things that tell you how to pray or how you *should* pray. Some religions have a lot of rules about prayer and what should and shouldn't be included and specific prayers to be used in specific situations.

I'm not one to really follow most of that. When I pray, I follow my heart.

While I believe everything that the Lord's prayer says - I don't find it to be a powerful prayer when spoken as a group. I think it's a good prayer for teaching someone about prayer. But I think a lot of times, in a group, we're just saying the words. I tend to not recite it exactly the way everyone else does. If I'm going to pray the prayer that everyone else is praying, I want the words to really have meaning for me. I will take a line or phrase from the Lord's Prayer and use it for prayer focus - "Forgive us our sins." Forgive me for the hurt I have caused, forgive me for the jealousy I've felt.

I don't think praying out loud is a requirement for prayer. I think of prayer as actually being pretty intimate - it's a time of communication between me and God. I've become more comfortable praying out loud because I think there is a time and place for it. I think that having someone pray over you, having someone speak on your behalf, is very powerful. I know that the Holy Spirit works through me at times when someone is facing something difficult and I can take their hand or I can hold them and I can pray over them right at that moment or I can offer to join them in their prayers.

But I think that starting your prayer life has to start in your heart.

I'm trying to put myself in a mindset of someone who doesn't pray or isn't very comfortable with it and am thinking about how I would start.

I'm not sure I would start by talking to God, honestly. Because if I'm not really the praying type, that might feel really... out there.

I might start with meditation. Meditation that would help me feel connected. For example, meditating on God's creation. If I spend time being centered and still and quiet and thinking about and feeling about the vastness and greatness and complexity of creation... that is a method of connecting to God. And at the end... if I can simply say to Him... "thank you."  That's a simple prayer.

Maybe after trying to meditate on different aspects of faith (creation, love for all people, compassionate giving, living like Jesus, the miracle and wonder of all aspects of the human body), maybe I'd want to talk to Him more. Maybe I'd start to feel more connected, more in tune, more aware of His constant presence.

I am something of a list maker, calendar keeper type of person. So once I was building on that connection, I think I would have a list of specific things I wanted to pray for or pray about. My next step would be to put myself in that space where I feel connected and then to focus on my list. To think of each person I am praying for and to visualize lifting that person or that problem up to God. To visualize a problem that I am setting down and leaving at the foot of the cross.

Prayer is a very individual and unique part of faith for each person. For some, prayer is most powerful when down on your knees and time is dedicated each day to only speaking to God. For some, prayer is a constant an dongoing conversation throughout the day with Him. For some, prayer comes through studying the Bible and then meditating over Scripture.

I also think that prayer can sneak up on you. Like, your spiritual life has been growing and deepening and one day, you realize that you are talking to God as you drive your car.  And you realize that maybe it isn't so strange to connect to God on a personal level.  So you start to make a point to take time to speak to Him directly. Or maybe you face a crisis and you purposefully decide to pray because you just don't know what else to do - so you authentically and completely open your heart to Him.

I don't have a list of directives on how to pray. I don't have a "step 1, step 2, step 3" method. I don't have rules to follow or things you have to do or things you should never ever do.

I simply have my heart. I believe so strongly in prayer. I believe that my personal relationship with Christ is founded in my time spent communicating with Him, praising Him privately as well as corporately (in church), listening and receiving Him.

What am I missing? What would you tell someone else about your prayer life?

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