How Do I Pray?
Many of us are familiar with traditional prayers (like the Our Father and Hail Mary) and the common prayers of the church including the Rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Mass. Those are all great places to begin! Prayer can also take on a more casual tone, like speaking to God in our own words about the events of our day.
We all have our own style when it comes to talking with God. Surely, pious words whispered in the silence of a darkened church are prayer. But tears cried alone on our bed at night are also prayer. Standing outdoors amid the wonders of creation, in awe of God’s magnificence, can be prayer too.
What distinguishes prayer from ordinary poetry, prose, or casual conversation is the one to whom it is directed. The object of prayer is God. The aim of prayer is to know God, to fall in love with God, so we can respond with greater generosity, and be more willing to respond to God’s call in our lives.
God hears our prayer regardless of the language we speak or the spiritual tools we use. Like a conversation with a good friend, prayer involves speaking as well as listening. There may be expressions of gratitude, hopes for the future, or a desire for forgiveness. Our time with God may be punctuated by long pauses, or perhaps we simply share space together in silence.
How do I know my prayer is working?
Are you ever frustrated when you don’t “get something” out of prayer? Unfortunately, those warm fuzzy feelings don’t happen every time we sit down to pray. But not sensing God’s presence does not mean you’re doing something wrong. God is always here, always listening, whether we feel it or not.
Prayer is more than fine feelings. The point of prayer is to grow in a trusting relationship with the one who loves us. This requires a certain amount of honesty and vulnerability on our part. Maybe ask yourself: Am I grateful for all that I have been given? Do I ask for what I truly desire? Am I open to the gifts God shares with me in return, even if it’s different than what I want? Am I growing in greater honesty with God about my shortcomings and sinfulness?
One of the greatest challenges of prayer is listening. We don’t often “hear” God audibly with our ears. But we can begin to understand the ways God speaks to us. Think about those moments when everything clicks, when you get an answer that you are certain could only come from God. It is times like this, when we are given the courage we need to face a difficult situation, or we find comfort during times of grief. Perhaps we stumble upon a verse of scripture, or receive a word of encouragement from a friend, at exactly the right moment. Maybe we sense that God is nudging us, trying to get our attention, and we begin to pay attention. This is God speaking to us!
Do you have a favorite style of prayer? How do you pray? And are there ways that you want to grow in your prayer life? Being open to God’s voice in prayer is essential to understanding God’s call for each one of us.
The answers we receive from God may not always be the ones we expect, but we can attune our hearing to listen for what God has to say. There is no one right or wrong way to pray. Simply open your heart and begin to speak. You’ll be glad you did.