Everyone longs for a connection with God from time to time. Really, that “holy longing” is inside of us always, but so often we become “distracted by many things” as Jesus put it. And while prayer, like God’s grace, is a free gift that we need to skill to receive, still it can be helpful to have some guidance on how to go about doing it! Below are a few tips to get you started.
Simply Talking to God
Obvious though it sounds, the most basic prayer is simply talking to God. If you’ve never prayed before it can feel a bit awkward, but give it a chance! Give your worries to God, but don’t forgot to include the good parts of your life too– a “thank you” is always a blessing!
Have trouble concentrating?
There are several things you can do to help you if your mind wanders or if you’re simply in search of a deeper experience. One is to pray written prayers. There are many books of prayers, including many from the Bible– the Psalms are a good example.
Prayer beads can be helpful for focus– the Catholic Rosary is one good example, but there are others, too. Any string of beads can be used however seems best to you– for example, what about praying for someone you love on each bead?
A “labyrinth” is a type of walking prayer, but you can also find versions online to print and “walk” by tracing it with your finger or a pencil. Writing down your own prayer– journaling prayer— is also a wonderful method!
Have trouble remembering to pray?
Many people develop a routine in prayer. Praying when you first wake up is a common favorite. Praying before bed is another classic, but many find it too easy to fall asleep. A more modern option might be to use an app on your phone to make it “ding” as a reminder to pray– once a day or even as small pauses throughout your day!
Fixed Hour Prayer is especially helpful (and ancient!) practice in times of turmoil in which you pray a specific times throughout the day. The idea is that instead of prayer being something that happens during your day, your day becomes something that happens during your prayer! Here is a link with good info.
Praying with Silence
We usually think of prayer as involving words, but that’s not the only way! Sometimes we have no words to speak and sometimes there are things that deeper than words can capture. Some say that simply sitting in silence, focused on God is the deepest form of prayer. Click here for info on a version of this called “Centering Prayer,” some also call it “Christian Meditation.”
This one is a bit trickier, but reading holy things can also be a form or prayer— so long as you focus your attention not on the reading but on what God is saying through it. Spiritual classics are good for this (here is a link with ideas and samples), but what could be better than the Bible itself? There is an ancient practice called Lectio Divina that focuses on exactly that. Do you have an old hymnal lying around? That can also be good. Or, how about a calendar of saints?
Another common option for “Holy Reading” is a devotional. You can find a paper copy, and we have many you can pick up here at the church, but these days it’s almost easier to have it emailed. Many read them on their phones first thing when they wake up in the morning! A few good options include The Upper Room, Guideposts, or Alive Now.
Pray with Others
Never underestimate the power of praying as a group! This is, in essence, what we do every Sunday in worship. But there are many other options, too, including our SpiritGroups, United Methodist Women… or any group in which you happen to find yourself.
Pray by Doing
Finally, don’t forget that for a life steeped in prayer, everything we do becomes part of our connection to God. No prayer is complete with words alone– a truly prayerful spirit always leads to action. The next time you do something in service to others, make a point to turn your heart toward God, remembering that you do it not only with your own hands– but with the hands God gave you for God’s good in the world.
Prayer is a wonderful thing– no life is lived to it’s fullest without a connection to That which is greater than us all. These are some practical tips, but the most important part is simply to begin.