“When one of our sons heard that I was writing a book about how to pray, he said,
‘Oh, but that’s easy. You just say, “Dear God”, chat to him for a bit, and then say Amen.’”
Pete Greig. “How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People” (p. 14).
Prayer can be that simple – it is people like us that make it something more complicated. Of course, the risk is that if we just open our mouths and say what’s on our minds, it will be a one-way broadcast of our thoughts similar to telling our waiter what we want to eat. If we simply treat God as a dumb waiter we will never hear his help and guidance on what’s best on life’s menu.
To make sure that we avoid the trap of a one-way conversation, there’s four simple steps each starting with a word whose first letter come together to spell the word PRAY. There are no rules about whether you pray with your eyes open or shut or if you should stand, sit, kneel or lay down – just choose an approach that works for you and ensures that you stay safe.
Spend a few moments to notice that it is our pre-occupations that stop us from noticing that God is always around, always ready to be with us. You might find it helpful to breathe a little more slowly and deeply than usual – you could even add the words (spoken or imagined) “Lord, here I am” to create a focus on God rather than your everyday surroundings. Relax in God’s presence without feeling the need to do anything: enjoy a moment of peace until you feel it is right to move on.
Even in the darkest moments, it’s possible to remember that God has done good things in your life. In this step, acknowledge (some of) those blessings and say thank you to God. Your thanks might be triggered by your current situation (“Thank you Lord for the many times you’ve kept me safe”), a person you are concerned for (“Thank you Lord for the joy of knowing [name] or what is around you (nature; people; shelter; food). There may be times when this step takes a long time – like luxuriating in a warm bath – and other, perhaps urgent, circumstances when this is a brief moment: the important thing is that it is heartfelt acknowledgement that God is active in our lives
Share what is on your mind. There’s no need to use fancy language – just pray from your heart. The best prayers name a broad outcome rather than state how you see things working out: try prayers like “Lord, help me to find a way through this” or “Lord, please bless [name] as he faces [situation]“. Don’t feel the need to speak (or think) your prayer continuously – it’s good to have gaps where you relax and perhaps allow God’s inspiration to flow into you. If God believes it is right to act at this time, you won’t necessarily hear His words: He might subtly change your outlook, inspire your thoughts or just leave you with a sense of peace. Similarly, if you feel nothing, this is just an invitation to look for His action in your life and pray again on another occasion.
God has unlimited wisdom and understanding that can lead Him to act in unexpected ways rather than apply the solution that looks best to us. In this step, we acknowledge this either by praying the Lord’s Prayer or with words like “In all things, Lord, Your will be done. Amen”
As your experience of prayer grows, you will find which times to pray, places to pray and ways to pray work best for you. In your journey, support, information and guidance is always available by talking to any member of the ministry team or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org