When Covid lockdowns started my home church instituted short, morning Zoom prayer meetings. Five people in the church took on a day each to lead the meetings and each brought a different flavour to the meetings and each brought something of value.
We often think of prayer as a one size fits all approach to talking to God. At the back of most of our minds when you talk about praying is the child kneeling by the side of the bed, hands together, working through a simple prayer. Prayer, however, can be so many different things and prompted by so many different things.
With our prayer meetings the person leading Monday would often start with a story based around personal experience and lead into a self reflective space for prayer. Tuesday was built around reading through one of the letters of St Paul, verse by verse and praying around how that spoke to the world today. Wednesday usually focussed on a quote from leaders of the early church, often the Celtic Church, and focussed on our relationship with God. Thursday we listened to that day’s Lectio 365 and lessons and points drawn from it informed our prayers. Finally Friday started with a scripture that often summarised what had been brought to the meetings during the week, picking up on themes and acting as a launch pad.
Five days and five very different approaches to prayer. When I work with the youth at my home church I often tell them that my two most frequent prayers go like this;
“dear father God… AAAARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Amen”
“Dear Father God… What’s the plan today? Amen.”
Both of which work as a conversation with God because He knows what is in our heart.
Jesus gave us a working formula for how to pray with the Lord’s Prayer in answer to an enquiry from his disciples. It is the most known Christian prayer in the world. The only prayer some people will have ever prayed.
In it we call out to God, we recognise him as Holy, we ask for his presence in all things, we ask for our physical needs to be met, for our mistakes to be forgiven and promise to forgive those of others. We ask to be kept safe from evil and acknowledge that all things belong to him. Then we end with Amen, let it be so.
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever.
The interesting thing there is that Jesus teaches the disciples to address God as their father too. We are part of the family of God and God is a good father. A point worth remembering is that this is about God being a good father and wanting to answer our needs. It’s always worth remembering that what you want and what you need may not be the same thing though. God sees what is in our hearts, what I want may be a Ferrari but what I need may be a reliable way of getting to work or visiting parents.
I used to be part of a creative prayer group that prayed through painting. It was lead by a wonderfully encouraging Christian artist and the group was made up of a variety of “non-artists” who created a wonderful variety of works that reflected what they need to say to God and to ask of God. The best thing was as the group got used to hearing God’s voice as they painted their confidence grew and they discovered their identity in God.
I have a friend who has a friend who’s way of praying is to play music on his keyboard, often improvising. He says it sets up a two way internal conversation between him and God. He opens his heart to freely let God in, stops trying to rationalise his prayers and lets God see what is really on his heart. At the same time he reaches a point where he is totally opening to listening and often hears God speaking to him through the music that comes out.
Prayer, at it’s heart, is a conversation with a loving father who understands you and your needs better than you do yourself. A father who is always willing to help you and stand with you if you will let Him. If he seems distant that could just be down to how you are looking at Him.
So if you find yourself wanting to reach out to God but don’t know how, don’t worry. However you speak to Him, God is listening.