I have a terrible confession that may or may not get me burned at the stake by rigid allegiances of Christianity (I mean, if I’m not on their witch-hunt list already for loving Harry Potter). Off and on throughout this crazy journey of trying to be more like Jesus, I come back to the same terrible conclusion:
I don’t really care much about prayer.
(cue old-timey fainting woman).
I mean I do it. I’m not a complete heathen as some of my constant blog hate-mail has suggested. As Tswift would say, Haterz Gonna Hate.
Yet if you asked my true self what I thought of the practice I would cautiously admit this: I often think my prayers don’t really matter and they have little impact on the world at large.
It seems we live in a world of “thoughts and prayers” with little action or follow-through.
I could share stories of the prayer for healing that went unfulfilled for my friend with cancer. The mentors I prayed for and didn’t pan out. The jobs I prayed about and didn’t get. The list goes on and on.
What if prayer is actually just a giant waste of time?
Then again, (brace yourselves) what if I’m completely wrong about prayer. I mean, there’s bound to be a first time for everything.
What if God actually does hear our prayers? What if God really does fulfill the desires of our heart? What if God is totally listening and shaping the world with us in real time? What if prayer does matter?
For the past few months I have been quietly rolling in the mud of this whole prayer business.
I am just finishing my first year of a two-year program called the “Center for Spiritual Formation,” which is a fancy title for “Come let us help you see your vast spiritual inadequacies in a beautifully safe and encouraging community.”
The program includes quarterly retreats where we study a different aspects of the spiritual journey and, much to my great resistance, we just finished our quarter on prayer. And it’s safe to say, my thoughts on how to pray have… entirely transformed.
You see, prayer doesn’t have to be some big fancy pants ordeal (although I could seriously use a new pair of fancy pants).
Prayer at its core is merely talking to God like you would a parent you completely adored. There are no rules or regulations, no perfect Greek recitations to memorize, just you being you in the presence of God being God.
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You go ahead pray any dang-well-way you please there sonny. And if you need some help knowing where to start, here are 30 Ways to REVITALIZE Your Prayer Life:
***Caution: side-effects from a revitalized prayer life may include increased gratitude, contentment, reduced worry and stress, and overall greater life satisfaction. Proceed with care.
1. Pray written prayers. Check out my favorite “Guerrillas of Grace” by Ted Loder. 2. Pray the Divine Hours 3. Practice a breath prayer. 4. Pray through song and music. [check out my Spotify Playlists here] 5. Pray through art by starting a Journal Bible or checking out Praying in Color. 6. Make a Prayer Board you can look at each day. 7. Download the Pray as You Go App 8. Pray for world leaders, pastors, police officers, teachers. 9. Read the book “Prayer: Finding Your Heart’s True Home “ by Richard J Foster 10. Sit in silence. Yes silence. If this is a new practice for you, check out the book “Silence and Solitude” by Ruth Haley Barton 11. Pray before meals. Perhaps even in public if you’re not trying to show off. 12. Pray as a response to worry or stress like when your car won’t start or the toilet is overflowing. 13. Read the book Circlemaker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson 14. Pray for people you encounter through the day like your bus driver, the cashier, the person who just cut you off on the highway, the homeless man at the stoplight. 15. Ask others to pray for you. 16. Pray dangerous prayers. 17. Go for a prayer walk or pray while running. 18. Keep a journal of your prayers and watch all the prayers God answers over time. 19. Read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and keep a prayer box. 20. Visit the KTIS Prayer Works message board and post a prayer or pray for others. 21. Write your own book of prayers or poetry. 22. Read different bible verses about prayer or experiment with Praying the Scriptures. 23. Choose something to incessantly pray for – a cause, a person, a social condition, a country. Pray everyday until God comes through. 24. Pray aloud for the people in your life at major milestones, as big life events happen, or just any old time. 25. Start a prayer group at your school, in your office or in your apartment building. 26. Write a prayer and post it by your kitchen sink for while you do dishes. 27. When you see someone in distress, ask if you can pray for them. 28. Pray for your enemies. 29. Kneel while praying before you go to sleep. 30. Ask God to transform your negative views on prayer.
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he writes these crazy words:
Pray continually. -1 Thes 5:17
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No need to freak out and try to jam all 30 into your life, but rather, give yourself freedom to experiment and see what makes you come alive. We have a God is who always with us, who never leaves us or forsakes us.
So why spend another day without tapping into that unbelievable awesomeness?
Perhaps today is the perfect day to refresh your thoughts on prayer and try something new. I mean, what do you have to lose?
Dare to up your prayer game and find a life that is more fully and recklessly alive. That life, that beautiful, messy, leaning on God, prayer-is-actually-great life, is better than I ever imagined.
And it’s waiting for you to… come on out here and roll in the mud with me.
What are your favorite places or ways to pray? What has worked for you or what will you try this week? Share in the comments below! [This post was originally published in April 2016 and updated in June 2018]
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These fantastic songs and others can be found in my Spotify playlist “Quiet Time“.