I remember a time when I would go to pray and within a couple of minutes, I had run out of things to say. Maybe you can relate.
The chaos of a weekday morning with three children to get out the door would hold me hostage. As the school bus left the street and freedom arrived, I would plan to use those next moments to pray. To help me focus, I kneeled by the side of my bed. Within minutes, actually less than that, I struggled to know what to say. Ridiculous really, because talking to a friend is not usually difficult but somehow I’d not know what to say to God. I’d look at the clock and be horrified how little time had passed.
Why is finding words to say when we pray so difficult?
It may be we just don’t know how to express ourselves to the somewhat mysterious and divine being we call heavenly Father. It could be we’re new to prayer, or out of practice. Or we can wonder if there are certain words we should use, and we worry about not using the right ones.
We all know it is easier to have a conversation with a friend when you’re sitting across from each other in a coffee shop. Text messages and emails can be taken the wrong way. It’s even easier than a phone call when we can’t figure out what the silence means on the other end or coverage is bad and we miss important words. Even video conferencing in meetings is not the same as being there in person. So, when it comes to prayer we should not be down on ourselves. We have good reason to struggle. But, let’s not stay there. Below, I suggest four ways we can practice prayer with confidence.
Four ways we can practice prayer with confidence:
1. Using Bible Verses
Turn God’s words into prayers for yourself and other people. Find a verse in the Bible — the Psalms are a good place to start — and make it personal.
For example. Take the words of Psalm 3:3 and, when you’re feeling “got at” say: “Lord, You are my shield and my protector, You are my wonderful God and glory, who gives me courage and lifts up my head. Amen.”
When we pray in this way, we are taking all of God’s purposes, promises, and power and proclaiming them over our lives and the lives of others.
Here are three specific Bible-based prayer resources you can use:
2. Using Written Prayers
Some time ago, I purchased a book called: The Book of a Thousand Prayers. It is a collection of prayers written by different people from across the centuries. What I like about these prayers is discovering people from hundreds of years ago who prayed about the same issues we do today. They wrote down prayers which we can use. For instance, the following prayer is written by Mother Janet Stuart in the nineteenth century.
I know that when the stress has grown too strong, you will be there.
I know that when the waiting seems so long, you hear my prayers.
I know that through the crash of falling worlds you’re holding me.
I know that life and death are your eternally.
Who’d of thought a Roman Catholic nun would have experienced stress!
Here’s another prayer by Ruth Burgess who puts into words how we often feel but don’t know how to express it:
I hate being ill.
I hate the helplessness.
I have the vulnerability,
I hate myself for being like this,
I hate you for letting this happen to me.
Soothe me down, God.
Help me to hear Your voice in the midst of my anger.
Help me to trust the caress of Your fingers.
Help me not to push You away when you come near.
Help me to let go into Your love.
Even if you haven’t been used to traditional church prayers, take the time to search out some as they are often deep and meaningful and can be used in your daily prayer life.
3. Using Your Own Words
Just use your everyday language. The Bible reminds us that God looks at our hearts rather than listening to our specific words. So, pray what you are really thinking and feeling— just as Ruth Burgess did. But, like the second part of her prayer, ask God to come and redeem your mind and heart.
I like using the term “down-to-earth” prayer. Being down-to-earth in prayer means we tell God as it is, no illusions or pretensions. Down-to-earth prayer means being humble. Jesus tells the story about the man who had a modest view of himself in prayer and how much that pleased God. God will love to hear you speak to Him when you are simply yourself, whatever words you use.
4. Using the 60 Days to a Prayer Habit
Sign up for 60 Days to a Prayer Habit to receive a guided prayer each morning in your email inbox. You are able to insert your own words and make the prayers as long or as short as you like. The prayer prompts also extend beyond 60 days. Can’t wait for you to join us.
I no longer run out of words or worry about how many minutes have passed when I pray, and that’s what I hope happens for you, too.