So where do you start, or re-start?
Praying can seem like a big thing, something which you have to get right. But prayer is not like an interview for that longed for promotion, it is much more the conversation over coffee with a friend.
There are a couple of starting points. The first is simply to say hello to God. Tell God, in your own words, that you want to pray more, that you are struggling and that you need God’s help. This should just take a sentence or two. When you have said the words, just listen for a few moments. You will probably not hear voices or be struck by a thunderbolt but you may find a sense of relief and ease.
Who are you?
The next step is to understand yourself a little better. You need to know how you communicate and learn. In fact, you probably already know this. Think back over your life – where have you found points of peace or stillness, of contentment and joy. Where have you felt “at one with the universe” or close to God. Where have you struggled with faith and religious practice?
Prayer is an invitation to joy. For some this is meditation and quiet, for others it is reciting the ancient words from the Prayer Book, for others it may be praying out loud in their own words or serving others. Words are often central to prayer, but we can also pray through both work and silence.
Prayer needs change over a lifetime, so don’t be surprised if what works today does not work in a few years, or even a few months. Set yourself clear and achievable goals and try to stick by them.
Lack of time is often the excuse for not praying. A Jewish household will have a Mezuzah on the doorframe of the front door. The idea is to touch it on the way in and out of the house – at a basic level this serves as a reminder of God. What might be your equivalent? A cross by the front door, a pebble in your pocket, a picture on your steering wheel? What will bring you to a place of noticing God regularly throughout your day?
Prayer in the ordinary:
You could expand this idea to sticking prayers up here and there, on your cubicle or in your desk drawer, by the sink or next to the dryer. Make them short but say them when you see them.
Do you have five or ten minutes in the car? Why not listen to a daily devotion – Pray as you Go is great. Do you have twenty minutes? Listen to the podcast of Morning or Evening Prayer from Mission St. Clare. You might want to hear the news in the morning, but have time to listen in the evening, or on your phone as you run to Starbucks or to get a sandwich. How about taking a few minutes of gym time to pray?
Growing in Prayer:
All of these are on-the-go prayers. They transform what we are already doing into an act of prayer. They are a great place to start. As you get used to conversation with God, you may notice that there are times in your day when you can pause for a few minutes and stop and pray and listen. You will probably find your stress will go down and your time will seem less frantic as you cultivate inner peace.
Set yourself realistic goals. Decide on a place to start, make a small change – one which you can achieve. Set a reminder on your phone to check in with yourself in two weeks and see how it is going. Try different things but be aware that prayer takes some discipline as well as just wanting to do it so push through that “excuses threshold”. Once you are settled set another reminder for three months and see where you are. Keep going with this pattern of adaptation and self-reflection.
More than anything, don’t give up. It can take a while to find a good routine, so be kind to yourself as you are learning or re-learning this skill.