“Pray As You Can, Not as You Can’t”
By Mother Laurie
That’s the beginning of prayer, in case you’re wondering. Pray as you can, not the way someone else prays, or the way you think you should, or with big words-- at least not unless these things bring you closer to the heart of God.
Some of these ideas might get you into a prayerful space. Or maybe none will resonate for you, so spend time asking God what He would have you do. You may be surprised at the answer.
Don’t be overly ambitious, especially if personal prayer is a new discipline. One author said that “Prayer is the best use of five minutes” in our day. Five minutes!! Because that five minutes can change the rest of the day. Can we give God five minutes?
Choose a place or time of day that will work for you and stick to it. Morning coffee at the dining room table…comfy chair after dinner…sitting on the back porch in the evening listening to the birds settle in for the night…five minutes before swinging your feet out of bed in the morning…folding laundry…daily commute to work…the possibilities are limitless, but your choice needs to work for you, and you need to get into the habit of your prayer place on a regular basis. You will be amazed at how the prayer tumbles out of you when you get to that place each time, as if your soul knows.
Breathe. In and out, in and out. Concentrate on the simplicity of breathing, filling your lungs with clean air and letting all the stale air out. The word “pneuma” is the word for Spirit in the New Testament—and it means literally ‘air’. Practice breathing in the Spirit of God and exhaling all the stuff that gets in the way of God in your life—disagreements, anger, fears—picture them leaving your body as you exhale. Light, warmth, goodness—imagine that the Spirit is like a scrub brush that can clean out all the dark stuff and bring in a kind of love and clarity to replace it. (Sort of like the Collect for Purity we say in worship—“cleanse our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit”—inspiration means to breathe in!). If you can do this for five minutes, you are already praying.
Limit yourself. Set a time limit or a prayer limit in the beginning. Pray for five minutes and then sign off. Maybe give each day a theme—pray for your friends on Mondays, or pray for your family on Wednesdays. Choose ten people (count off on your fingers), and pray for thirty seconds for each person—just think of them with love and imagine them surrounded by God and His goodness. Maybe you don’t even need words.
Involve your body. Some people pray best while walking or swimming or running or biking. The rhythm of the activity frees their hearts and minds to spend time with God. That’s how pilgrimages are supposed to work—we put our body into the prayer mix and become ‘living prayers’ for God.
Write down your prayers. Carry a notebook, or keep a journal. This works well for me. Writing things down clarifies my prayer and helps me discover what is really going on in my soul. Writing also focuses my energy and my attention—I’ve got a little bit of ADD, so this helps me.
Prayer should be a natural expression of your relationship with God—sing, dance, or paint your prayers!! Get to know God better by opening your heart to his presence in ways that feel natural to you. Our Sunday service models certain ways to pray, but certainly not the only ways to pray. I read one Chinese prayer that begins with this line: “Dear God, change the world, and begin with me…” Prayer changes the world one heart at a time. Begin by letting God change your heart now.