Prayer can be hard business. Whether it’s those mumbled words over a meal in public or the heartfelt cries from an ER waiting room, our prayer lives reveal so much about our relationship with God. But often prayer gets lost in the jumble of life—we get busy, lazy, or distracted. So if you’re stalled out and need to jumpstart your own dialogue with Jesus, here are some tips to enliven your prayer life (even if you’re not much of a pray-er).
If You're a Reader
1. Change your perspective. One of the best ways to change your own perspective is to see someone else’s. Dive into Patricia Raybon’s I Told the Mountain to Move, a memoir chronicling Patricia’s life-changing hurdles that brought her to the brink and forced her to her knees. “God seemed a great and distant emptiness, saying nothing, doing nothing, mocking and empty and not there,” she writes. Have you ever felt like your prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling? Journey with Patricia to a deeper understanding of prayer.
2. Trust the classics. Connect with God by focusing on classic Christian texts, like The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Learn about a prayer life that grows out of a love for God: “Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know him, the more we will desire to know him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love him. We will learn to love him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”
If You're Crafty
3. Fold up your prayers. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Prayer is not limited to the written or spoken word; we can express ourselves to God in countless ways. One church wrote out their prayers on pieces of origami paper, and then filled their altar with cranes as a symbolic release of control. So grab some paper and get to folding!
4. Bring them to the cross. Whether it be by building a wooden cross or simply taping one on the floor, experience the sweet surrender of physically taking your requests and placing them at the foot of the cross.
5. Dissolve your worries. Grab a glass and an Alka-Seltzer tablet. Once you drop the tablet into the water, you have until the water finishes fizzing to get out all of your worry and confess it to God. No more fizz—no more worry. You’ve handed it over.
6. Pray with busy hands. It’s time to buy some coloring paper and get to praying. With the recent attention given to the meditative benefits of adult coloring, doodling, and even knitting, there are many “new” ways to pray. Instead of writing your prayers, draw them. Knit them. No matter how you do it, surrender them.
If You Like Tradition
7. Pray through Scripture. Start with the Word. If you enjoy the liturgy at your church or often identify with the reflections in Psalms, try adopting Paul’s prayers as your own. Or, like many before you, meditate on the Lord’s Prayer, which offers a powerful framework for interacting with God.
8. Pray through the prayers of others. Find your voice in the echoes of other Christians. Read how Cindy Crosby discovered that through praying the prayers of Saint Patrick and other ancient Christians she was able to re-establish a framework for her own struggling prayer life. For other prayers to model, check out The Online Book of Common Prayer and A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.
If You're Tech Savvy
9. App it up. Don’t put down your phone just yet. Pray! acts as a calendar app to record your requests and remind you throughout the day to bring these requests to God. Another app, Prayer Prompter, is great for those of us with shorter-than-average attention spans. Use this app if you need a series of prompts (“your family,” “worship,” “confession,” “your spouse”) to guide you through prayer with additional suggested passages to pray through for those days when your words just run out.
10. Go global. Are you praying in a bubble? Having that global focus often feels impossible, so work on expanding your prayers outside your small circle. Check out Prayercast, a ministry out of One Way. Prayercast provides you with a summary of countries with specific ways to pray for each place. Praying for places and movements so much greater than ourselves helps remind us of how big and awesome God is.
Prayer can be tricky, but it is also incredibly rewarding. While prayer is meant to bring us closer to God and align our hearts with his, it is also meant to grow us as people. So while you look over this list, I encourage you to try a few suggestions that you’re naturally drawn to, but spend time this week also experimenting with a few that seem outside of your comfort zone. You never know what some colored pencils or an Alka-Seltzer tab could teach you about God.