Before you can start a long-distance conversation—whether it's with God or your best friend—you first have to pick up the phone.
Whatever your name for a higher power — God, Source, Spirit, Universe — that power cannot connect with you if you don't pick up the phone! But what on earth does “picking up the phone” actually look like in the development of our spiritual life?
The answer is far beyond the scope of a blog post…books and papers have been written about prayer by theologians far more advanced spiritually than I am…but I've recently come across a very helpful article called “Ten Ways to Pray” put out by Forward Movement Publications, an agency of the Episcopal Church devoted to “creating compelling content for Christian living.” Since the introduction says to “feel free to share this with friends, family, or anyone you feel could benefit by its content,” I am pleased to do so. Please note the authors are not trying to say these are the only ways to pray, but rather that these are ways they know to be useful to many people.
The importance of talking to God — and that's my definition of prayer — is the same as the importance of talking to anyone whom you love, care about, or want to get to know better. It enriches life, clarifies understanding, increases empathy, and enables a conduit for give-and-take that is simply not possible when the connection is broken. If you want to connect with your higher power, you have to make yourself available, just as you do in any meaningful relationship.
Ten Ways to Pray
Each of these ten ways to pray is described and discussed in the article:
- Praying with Scripture
- The Daily Office (found in The Book of Common Prayer)
- The Rosary
- Centering Prayer
- Body Prayer
- Praying with icons
- The Jesus Prayer
- Prayer groups and prayer partners
I've used several of these ways, and I intend to try others. I'm experimenting right now with Journaling Prayer and finding it fascinating and helpful. I'll write more about that later.
There's no one right way to pray!
Please grasp this message. It's easy to get hung up on worrying about whether you're “doing it right” instead of just doing it! And don't be afraid to change the way you pray as your own spiritual life develops and as you mature. Remember that “the purpose of prayer is to open ourselves to God so that God may bring us and the world into harmony with his purposes.”
Be honest when you talk to God
Another misconception is that we can't be angry or frustrated or anything but pious when we talk to God. Hogwash! The Psalms are loaded with prayers to God that are nothing short of rants and ravings. They include feelings of rage, jealousy, hurt, anger, desire for revenge, and so much more. These are a rich source of real prayers by real people, and when you can't find your own words, just borrow the words of others. God doesn't care, as long as you're being real and honest. God can handle anything we dish out.
Please share in the comments below your own thoughts about prayer and ways to pray, books, blogs, or speakers that have been meaningful to you.
Additional Prayer Resources
You might enjoy my book review of Paul Miller's excellent A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World.
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