Starting to pray (again!)

(10 little hints to help you start again and perhaps to help your prayer time be more effective.)

1. The very thought or desire to pray is a personal gift to you from God.

No one can say “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:13) without a grace from God. So every time your heart is lifted, however faintly, to look toward God – – – it is God actually reaching out to you. Let this be an encouragement. God loves you and wants your friendship. He’s begins the conversation.

2. Prayer is about Friendship and Trust in God.

So how do friends speak and listen to each other? Honestly, straightforward, without fear of offending, with humor, and of course with affection. Things like, “Lord, I’m sick and tired of …” or “Dear God, I did it again. Help me.” Or, “Why won’t you take this away Lord?” Or, “Show me what I need to do.” Or anything else your friendship needs to say.

3. God is invisible, so . . . images help. (hand extended, shepherd in the distance, etc.)

God made our minds to work by way of images. Pictures of loved ones keep them more clearly in our minds and hearts. But God we cannot see so – – – images help. Some- times I image God by a hand resting on my shoulder, or sometimes a person in a darkened room. Jesus said he is a Good Shepherd; picture that. Water springing forth in the desert. A calming voice, etc. Let yourself find an image that helps you to trust his presence.

4. Start where you “are” not where you “should be”.

This is very important. You don’t “get holy” and then start to pray. We start right where we are. Sinful, lazy, selfish, lustful, angry, happy, . . . whatever. Give yourself to God just the way you are. That’s what friends do. But remember . . . He’s the Lord. His will is the path to life. End your prayer by submitting to God’s will. Jesus did in the garden.

5. Be honest with God about what you REALLY are thinking and feeling.

Again, “holy” thoughts are not what God wants. God wants YOU! In all your imperfections and failures.
He’ll begin to show you a new path but it starts right where you are!

6. Warm up to prayer (a memory of sometime you know God helped you. Go back to that time, feel the help it brought you. Thank God again.)

There was a time I was in a real pickle. I tried and tried to get myself out of it but nothing worked. This thing just wouldn’t leave me. I remember asking God about a hundred times to take it away and guess what? It took a while but He did!!

So it helps me to begin my prayer remembering that in the past he freed me from some messes of my own making. What has God done for you that you can thank Him for at the beginning of your prayer? (It takes about 10 minutes to shake off the noise of the world and get down to business with God.)

7. Find YOUR way of praying not someone else’s.

Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Each of us brings a unique way of talking and feeling. Don’t be phony. Talk to God as you would a friend who knows all your gifts and your quirks.

8. We learn to pray by praying.

No one ever learned to play the piano by reading about it or seeing a video. You learn by putting fingers to the keys. So too with praying . . . just do it. There’s no one there to grade you. God will take whatever you offer him and magnify it. Remember the Mustard Seed? (Mt. 4:31)

9. Listen to your heart.

After you’ve read scripture or spoken your feelings to God, it’s time to listen. How does God speak? God speaks to us by touching our minds with thoughts and memories and our affections with sentiments that move our will to want what God wants. Often times it’s only later in the day (or week!) we realize what God has done in our prayer.

10. Don’t get discouraged. Stay at it!

Just know that the smallest of gestures toward God brings his blessing. God loves you. You are his child. Keep on trusting, keep on asking, keep on looking for signs of his hand. “Seek and you shall find.” (Mt. 7:7)

Prayer. Just do it. It’s what love does.

Fr. Tim