Prayer can be a comforting thought, or a foreign practice. We think of prayer in so many ways; we learn rote prayers as children... now I lay me down to sleep... and in my era we prayed the prayer that Jesus taught every morning as we started our school day: "Our Father, who art in heaven..." This is a wonderful prayer to pray.
I grew up learning different ways to pray - and although some of these "formulas" were helpful, not all were. I remember being in a camp as a ten year old and criticized for how I ended my prayer. I was told that if I didn't pray in Jesus name, my prayer was not effective. As a ten year old I knew that wasn't true, but didn't have the words or courage to defend myself. I do pray in Jesus name often, but I don't think it is a mandatory ending, or magical formula for God to answer my prayers. God is so much bigger than that.
What has been most helpful for me is the word "conversation". Another word I love is "communion". To me, prayer is entering into an awareness that God is with me and that I can communicate with him freely, just as a child would to their loving parent. I come as I am.
This awareness can start early in the day as I awaken... and it is a wonderful practice to just say "Good morning" to the One who created me, who gives the gift of breath, and beauty, and life.
Before you come to any conclusion of my having it all together with prayer, I will assure you that I struggle at times. There are times where I rant and complain, much like the Psalmist. There are things I don't understand, and these are part of the conversation at times.
As a hospital chaplain, I am with many who struggle with prayer. Their cries might feel unanswered, or in their pain or grief it is hard to express words. I am reminded of that beautiful verse from Romans 8:26 which says: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."
Sometimes when we don't know how to pray it is helpful to pray the prayers of others. I have learned to love written prayers that I can say yes, I pray that too. In my Baptist and Mennonite heritage, we learned to pray freely, using our own words. I am grateful for this. But I have also come to love and respect liturgical prayers and practice - there is a beautiful rhythm of praying and agreeing with others as we draw close to God.
Some of the most amazing prayers to pray are those of scripture. You can just "google" Scripture prayers to pray and you will have a list of prayers to pray. I love the prayer from Psalm 19:14 which has also become one of my favourite songs: "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
A few years ago I heard the concept of breath prayers. These prayers are lifted as we breathe, helping us to focus on God. One of the most beautiful breath prayers is to pray the Hebrew name of God" Yah-weh". This name was so sacred that the Hebrews would not say it out loud. When we breathe this beautiful name of God, we invite this beautiful Holy presence to be with us. Breathe in Yah, breathe out Weh, focus on God's beautiful presence.
In my devotional journal, "Words of Faith to Live By", I write several breath prayers for each word.
Here are a few:
"Lord, here I am, sitting with You."
"I rest in Your Love.
"My hope is in You."
"Yahweh, I am here. Yahweh, You are Here."
We often think of prayer as a request time, and there is a place for that.
But just as we wouldn't go to our friends with requests at the top of our list, we would want to just be with them, to get to know them, to be grateful for them.
I truly believe God is a personal God who is just waiting for us to have conversation. The whole earth is testament to the beauty of creation, and one can just sit by a beautiful lake, or view a majestic mountain, or even be taken with the beauty of a rock or flower or tree and pause... pause to take in the beauty, to give thanks. This too is prayer.
Prayer is awareness, prayer is listening. Prayer is trusting in the One who created me.
"Words of Faith to Live By", the devotional journal, is available through my website www.gracewulff.com, or through me personally.