If I have to be honest, writing about this makes me a little uneasy. The topic came to me last week. I sent myself an email so I wouldn’t forget and I have been casually glancing over the Subject Line for the past week–unable to delete it, yet not having found the words to write this post. Negative thoughts kept popping into my head like, “What makes you think you can write a post like that? What makes you credible? People will laugh at you. You’re not ‘Christian’ enough. What gives you authority?” There was more than that too. I am pretty in tune with recognizing negative thought patterns and these were coming in fierce.
In my own prayers, I am always seeking confirmation and a feeling of peace from God to either move forward or back away from things in my life. Earlier in the week, I had coffee with a new friend and she asked, “How did you start praying?” and in that moment I had my confirmation that yes, this is a worthy topic that I (yep, little ol’ me) can write about.
It wasn’t very long ago that I asked this same question to others. Within the past year, my spirituality and faith have really grown, thanks in part to joining a small group and with dedicated intention to it. I have always believed in God and have seen Him work throughout my life in very significant ways, but I wasn’t really practicing my faith, if that makes sense.
Through small group, I learned that it isn’t taboo to talk about these types of things. There are other women out there with the same feelings and thoughts, that are also searching for something that can only be filled by God. I can’t explain the peace that I have found in my life. It is like an overwhelming sense of serenity. It has improved all areas of my life–work, my marriage, my friendships, and even my self-worth. This isn’t to say that I never get worked up, angry, or speak out of line, but the way in which I approach things are much different.
So, to answer the main question of this post: there is no right or wrong way to pray. There is not one set superior method. However, I do want to share with you how I first started to pray and how it has evolved. That way, if you are in the “I don’t even know where to start” phase of your faith, you can try some of the things that worked for me.
When I first started to pray, I had a really hard time verbalizing what I wanted to say, so I wrote it all down. I found that by writing it down, I was able to concentrate better, get everything out that I wanted to say, and it felt more comfortable. Plus, ever since I was a little girl I have always liked to journal. I would love to go back and see what my 4th grade-self wrote about–probably about my first crush and what I was wearing to school that day. Lol.
As I became more comfortable with prayer in general, I started to say some of my prayers out loud. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it feels so good when it does. My favorite time to do this is when I am driving to work early in the morning–it is still dark out, I turn the radio off, and I just talk/pray out loud. Woah, this is powerful–so powerful, I have even cried before. Verbalizing my prayers out loud provides me with an even deeper level of spiritual connection.
I say silent prayers too. Generally, this is in the morning a little while after I wake up when I am having my coffee or laying in bed at night before I go to sleep. Typically, these aren’t long and drawn out. Maybe just a minute or two, but I am here to tell you, one minute of intentional prayer in the morning can change the way your entire day unfolds. At night, I also like to visualize the things I want for myself and thank God in advance for my future blessings.
I have also started to listen to praise and worship music. I almost chuckle when I say this out loud, because this is ‘so not me’, or at least it wasn’t me in the past. I was even embarrassed the first time my husband got in my car and heard it. I don’t know why I was so embarrassed, but I was. I think it was just so far out of what was ‘normal’ for me. My friend Stacy is the one who turned me onto doing this. You know what, it is so nice to hear positive words while you are driving to and from places. It sets a different kind of tone and gives you a continual positive feed.
The most important shift that I have made in my life in regards to prayer, faith, and my relationship with God is that I now communicate with Him, as if He were a friend. Before, I thanked Him for things and asked for His help, which of course is important, but dare I tell Him how mad, sad, or frustrated I was about certain things. Dare I question things that were happening in my life. Dare I scream or get angry at Him.
I vividly remember the day this shifted for me: I was driving to CVS at 8 am in the morning on a Sunday after getting some bad news. (Looking back, I can’t even remember why it was so important I went to CVS right then and there–avoidance of sadness, maybe?) When I went up to the door, it said they don’t open until 9 am. Boy, that set me off. I went back to my car and started sobbing, hysterically. I screamed “Whyyyyy?” at the top of my lungs over and over and over again and was literally pounding my steering wheel with my fists. Obviously, my sadness wasn’t because CVS didn’t open until 9 am but it was the tipping point for my anger explosion at God.
That week, I was embarrassed about the way I acted, even though myself and God were the only ones who witnessed it, but I also had a breakthrough. I realize that this, my friends, is a relationship. Are all of my other relationships perfect? No. Do I tip-toe around not sharing my true feelings? No. Do I only communicate when I am happy? No. That explosion, was me in communication with God, in the same way I would communicate with my husband or a family member–the honesty of it, not the sheer craziness of it. 🙂 I felt more alive and connected to God that week than I had in a long time.
With all of that being said, I don’t truly believe God is responsible for my pain, nor do I think everything happens for a reason. Why would kids get cancer, women lose babies, and spouses die in tragic accidents? Sometimes though, in the moment, it is easy to shift our blame to God and on that day in the CVS parking lot, that is what I did. I don’t think I had fully come to the realization that God is 100% good. God doesn’t want to see us suffer. He doesn’t cause or allow these things, but He is here to help us through them. He is here to help us pick up the pieces, to help us learn from the situation, and to see us through on our journey. This realization has really helped me to grow in my faith, understand God, and be in communication with Him.
The overarching message I want to leave you with is that the ‘right’ way to pray is the way that feels comfortable to you. You can pray at church or you can pray while you are drinking your morning coffee. You can write your prayers down or say them out loud. You can share them with others or keep them private. You can say whatever is on your heart. You can be happy and thankful or be sad and mad. You can ask questions and ask for answers. The most important part of it all is that you are in communication with God. Get to know Him. Join a small group. Read the Word. Surround yourself with others who have intrinsic joy. There are so many ways.
Even though this blog post made me uneasy to write, once I started writing, the words flowed freely and I didn’t have to stop, think, erase, and re-write, like I normally do, which is a confirmation to me that there is a reason it was on my heart to write it. I hope that you have gained something, even a small snippet from it, or you can forward it on to someone you think needs to hear this message.
What is your favorite way to pray? How have you grown closer to God? Share in the comments below. I would love for this blog post to be a space for us to help each other grow in peace, joy, and communication with God.