The Big Question 9: How Do You Pray?
Apr 24, 2018 1809
How do you pray?
Some years ago, my father died in very sad circumstances. In the days that followed, I was a mess, and I needed time to be by myself. So I went and sat beside the sea. I spent a whole day thinking and praying there. What I most prayed for was joy. And as the words formed in my mind, a pod of dolphins leapt out of the water, perhaps 30 or 40 metres away from where I was, playing in the ocean. For me, that was God telling me that it would be OK.
My understanding of how to pray was muddled for many years. That’s because I was brought up with the idea that you have to pray in an especially reverent or “holy” way that God approved of. So, you had to kneel down, and include special religious phrases and words that would be right for speaking to God. Now, I know better.
Think about how you talk to your friends, and your loved ones. It’s something you do automatically, something you need to do because you have a relationship with these people.
It’s much the same with God. At its most basic, prayer is conversation with God. You can pray at any time, any place and in all circumstances.
Another really good way to think about your communication with God is to have an ‘attitude of prayer’ in which God is your constant companion throughout your day, whatever you are doing. Even when you’re concentrating on other things, you can still be aware of his presence. So this way, your time with God shouldn’t have boundaries.
There are many examples of how Jesus was always conscious of God’s presence. Often, while he was teaching or doing something, he would stop for a moment and speak to his heavenly Father. For example, while he was speaking to the crowds he would suddenly stop, look up, and say, “Father, glorify the Son.” And we can do the same. I try to speak to God while I am walking, working, or even while I am with other people. This is no less praying than kneeling in the most beautiful cathedral.
Our lives can be so demanding that sometimes we forget to stop even to sense our need to spend time with God. But when you realise that God is as essential to your life as food, drink and sleep, you will want to spend time with him.
The Bible says that God will give us what we ask for. This doesn’t mean that God will give you everything you want; it means that as we meditate on God and come closer to him, we will naturally become more responsive to his will for us and to the way he leads us.
Spending quiet time with God will refresh your soul for the demands of life, but most importantly, it will keep you in tune with the real source of your life and purpose.
I often go for a walk or sit overlooking the ocean, as I mentioned before. Those are some of my favourite prayer times. You may choose a beautiful place where you can feel peaceful; you may need to stay indoors, but you might choose to have beautiful music playing; or you might prefer to have complete silence as you focus on God and your two-way communication with him. Whatever your situation, make your prayer time special.
For me, prayer is never a monologue. It’s real communication.