The Art of Prayer
- Friday, May 03, 2013
Like most children, I learned how to pray at the dinner table. I would fold my hands, close my eyes, and furrow my brow with concentration as my father asked God to bless our food. I employed the same technique at bedtime, adding requests like “Keep my family safe” and “please bring back dinosaurs” when it seemed important. Once I became a teenager however, this style of prayer was no longer going to cut it. More often than not, I’d fall asleep halfway through my monologue, and even when I managed to stay awake I never felt like I was connecting with God at all.
So what is the right way to pray? Is there even such a thing as a right way? I’ll admit, I don’t really know. However, I do believe there are many ways to pray, and that prayer is different for every person. In the wake of National Day of Prayer, I would like to share a few ways I’ve learned how to pray.
Pray in Action
“So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” – 1 Corinthians 14:15
I suppose it’s best if I start with the style of prayer I am most familiar with. I have never been good at sitting still during prayer. I am too easily distracted, and my mind tends to wander no matter how sincere my motives were when I began. So whenever I’m really looking to connect with God, I always go for a walk. I simply choose a direction and I start to pray.
I don’t know why walking helps. Maybe the activity focuses my thoughts or maybe a sense of direction gives me clarity, but personally, I believe it’s because prayer was meant to be natural. God made us to run, climb, swim, and dance, and I have no doubt he takes great joy in watching us do those things. In much the same way, we were also made to pray. If you are looking for a different way to connect with Christ, find something you do naturally and learn to pray through that.
Pray in Silence
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." – Psalms 46:10
When I was a student at Taylor University, I would frequently go to the campus prayer chapel while doing devotions. Normally sitting still would have been a problem, but the Taylor chapel was different. The instant you passed through its doors the silence would envelop you like a cocoon. It gave the building a separate peace you couldn’t find anywhere else on campus, making it simple to focus on Christ and just listen. Since graduation, I’ve found silence harder to come by.
The modern world is filled with so many distractions: TV, internet, movies, mobile phones, iPods and iPads, and whatever new piece of technology just became popular. Even our homes have become filled with things designed to eat up our time and attention. People have forgotten what it feels like to be silent before the Lord. The next time you pray, find a place away from all those loud distractions and temptations.
Find a place that is silent, and just listen.
Pray in Anger
“While he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." – 1 Kings 19:4
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