by Alyssa Robinson
Prayer is a mystery to me. Sometimes it comes so naturally that I feel like I’m in a constant state of prayer, and other times it just feels rote. One thing I wish I was taught about prayer growing up that I’m just now beginning to understand is prayer is a journey. I was under the illusion that everyone else was getting something that I wasn’t. People would tell me about the power of prayer and how they felt God’s presence, but I just didn’t get it.
When I would pray, it often felt like I was just talking to myself. I was afraid to share this with people because I was embarrassed. I thought I would be judged and the blame would be put back on me. Maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough or I wasn’t using the right words. As a result, I hated to pray out loud in groups, and I still do.
As I got older, and possibly wiser, I realized that I’ve been approaching prayer in a way that doesn’t work for me. Prayer is a difficult concept to teach to children, so we try to make it a little easier to understand with rote prayers to memorize. As a child, I learned the Lord’s Prayer, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, God is Great, God is Good, etc. Then as I became a teenager, I was taught the Acts prayer:
- Adoration - give God praise
- Contrition - confess your sins to God
- Thankfulness - thank God for the gifts in your life
- Supplication - lift up your cares and concerns to God
In this week’s Life + God Podcast episode Rev. Doug Meyer and I talk in depth about our understanding of prayer and how it’s changed over time. You can listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.
I think the way we teach prayer came from Scriptures like this:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
These verse are a beautiful reminder that we can turn to God with all things. After all, when Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer, he gave us a prayer formula.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.
I think Jesus meant for this to be a starting point for our prayer life, not the ending point. But I treated it as the end point. Unfortunately, my prayers became a checklist of the right words to say. None if it made me feel closer to God. I needed and wanted to refresh my prayer life. I’ve had glimpses of connection to God, and I wanted to be more open to God’s presence. My therapist introduced me to meditation.
Meditation is quiet time set aside to connect to the energy of Christ. It’s a form of prayer, but for me it’s wordless. I’ve found that when I use words, I over analyze my prayers. I get caught up in what I’m trying to say or how I can verbalize the things I need or what I’m feeling. I’m not a meditation master, but I’ve found that even setting aside a couple minutes of time to quiet my mind and connect to God’s energy is transformative. And I think there is Scripture to support this.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I love these Bible verse about prayer because they remind me I don’t need the right words. I don’t even need to construct sentences. I just need to call to God and open my heart.
What has your experience been with prayer? I hope you take some time to explore new ways to pray that lead you into a growing relationship with Christ. Try some new prayer methods at tmumc.org/passionate-prayer.