Ever since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17), I think followers of Jesus have internalized some sort of guilt that we aren’t praying enough. I’ve never met a Christian who felt like they had mastered a really great prayer life, much less one that could confidently say that they prayed without ceasing. I think many of us feel like prayer-failures because we have set ideas of how we ought to be praying and find ourselves always falling short.
My grandparents sat every morning of the world together after breakfast and had their ‘devotional’ time. Papaw would read assigned scripture and a reflection from Guidepost Magazine; Mamaw would name off the missionaries to be prayed for and tell their story from the Baptist Ladies Missionary Aid Society. Then Papaw would commence to praying for everyone and everything he knew and loved, especially that we grandchildren would all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It didn’t even strike me odd at the time that he prayed for my salvation right alongside his tomato crop.
As I became more serious about living out my own faith, I wanted to get more serious about prayer. I decided to emulate my grandparents and set aside morning time to pray, but I never seemed to have the time. Then I committed to getting up extra-early every morning to read the Bible and say prayers – which worked just about as well as my commitment to get up extra-early to go to the gym did.
The truth is, my prayer personality is not the same as my grandparents. Yours probably isn’t the same as mine. Instead of beating ourselves up because we can’t seem to succeed at praying in a certain way, how about we explore what way of praying works for us?
That’s what I did. When I lived in Houston and regularly had an hour commute each morning, drive time was prayer time. As a mother with small children, God got a quick hello during my morning shower and I did my real praying at bedtime, just like my kids. Yes, sometimes I fell asleep before I got through all the God blesses, but I figured God understood.
If you are committed to improving your prayer life, you can do it. You can find what and when and how works for you.
Some tips to try to get you started:
- When you first wake up, before getting out of bed, just say a quick good morning to God. Mine is, “thank you God for bringing me to this new day. Be with me in it and help me to bring your love where ever I go.”
- If you take morning showers, review the day ahead, intentionally asking God to be in it and bless it. Sing a favorite hymn of praise, even. That’s prayer, too.
- If you have a quiet time in the morning or at lunch or in the evening, set aside 20 minutes to read the daily office from the Book of Common Prayer. There are even apps available on your phone with the set scriptures for the day. I don’t say the office at the same time every day, but I almost always get it said. Waiting in a pickup line for kids, or at the doctor’s office or where ever, you can do it.
- Give thanks before each meal where ever you eat it – it takes 30 seconds and saying ‘God is good, God is great’ is fine.
- As you lay down to sleep each night, thank God for the blessings of the day and try to leave your worries in heaven to be sorted out.
Try one or more of these, or try something unique to you. Like the Nike ad says, “just do it.”
The Rev. Stacey Fussell is Rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Bradford.
|This is the fourth installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.|