‘The Lord is near to all who call on Him, all who call on Him in truth.’ – Psalm 145:18
A Guide to Not Following a Prayer Guide
There are a lot of guides out there telling people the best way to pray. What they don’t realise is that they are stopping people from doing just that.
What is prayer about? It is about asking for guidance, forgiveness, help for those in need and giving thanks, just to name a few. But ultimately it is about building your own relationship with God. It is your very own time to chat things through with someone who wants the absolute best for you. God knows what you need, but often you have to ask Him first. Then, the only way to find out the answer is to listen.
Prayer guides forget to tell us to listen to God.
But how are we supposed to listen if we are thinking so hard about the basic element of ‘how to pray’ in the first place? We can overthink praying so much that we not only forget to listen to God, but we forget to listen to ourselves. What are we praying for and why do we want it to happen?
One of the problems with following a set guide to structure your prayers is that it often seems like quite a big task. Once you have worked through all of the different sections of things to pray for, you start to try and ‘get it done’. It also seems to take quite a long time. I am not saying that we shouldn’t spend a long time praying, far from it, but whilst we are praying we definitely shouldn’t be thinking about how much time has gone by or what a major operation praying appears to be. Also, it can put us off starting praying in the first place if we feel that all of our prayers need to follow this lengthy structure. Some days we don’t have time or simply don’t feel like spending a long time in prayer. My answer to this? Forget about the structure and only do what you feel like. This way, when you do pray you will really mean what you are saying.
Don’t worry about always praying for a long time. Drop lines to God whenever and wherever. Let Him know you remember He is up there, and constantly present in all of your daily activities.
It is a privilege to know that we can call on God anytime and anywhere to ask the one person in the Universe who knows the best answer to ours or other’s needs. But for God to respond to that call surely we must be praying with our full heart, not out of obligation. Don’t let anyone make you pray in any certain way – this is your time with God.
Sometimes when praying with others we feel that some prayers are more pleasing to God’s ear. The sophisticated, advanced theological language, for instance, can win over anyone listening that you really know the best way of communicating with God. The problem with this though, is that you can subconsciously start to adopt this language not only to impress God, but the others around you. This is immediately going against the whole moral of praying and Christianity in general! Those listening will then feel obliged to pray in this way as well, and their more personal, heartfelt prayers are no longer expressed.
A child’s prayer is the most beautiful thing, full of simplicity and truth. However, as they become older they start to say more socially acceptable prayers, but to God’s ear they are not half so acceptable. Who are our prayers for – God or our peers? After all, in Psalm 8:2 it says, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’.
My prayer is that God may help us reverse what we have been exposed to and pray like little children. As Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
There is no right or wrong way to pray. There is nothing to tell us that if you pray in this particular way in this particular place it is guaranteed your prayers will be answered. God made us all unique – there is no one way fits all. It is the same with praying.
If you can’t think how to pray, it sounds ironic but… pray for help praying! God is our best guide and, you never know, perhaps whilst praying for help you may find your voice again. God sees and hears everything we say and do, not only our prayers, so just relax and chat to Him.
If I may to end use an awful analogy to the doctor’s saying… He’s heard it all before!