So how does it work? Well, I think it works differently for each person. Some people are very verbal, others are very movement oriented, while others are very visual. I think personal Prayer is just that -- personal -- and you have to find the approach that puts you in touch with the Holy Spirit living within your heart and the Creator.
How do you start?
There are as many ways to pray as there are ways to communicate. One might even call prayer "God's own Wireless Network" that connects all humanity to Him. Hmmm, does that mean "4G" could mean "For God"?
I have a friend in a "Christian Journey" discussion group who shared that his prayer life is anchored by the phrase "Thank You, Lord". He has experienced some tough situations in his life and has come to a profound sense of gratitude for the life he has been given, and the gifts that each new day brings. He wakes up giving thanks, he gives thanks throughout the day, and at the end of the day, he gives thanks again.
Another friend shared that for her, music plays a huge role in her connectedness with God. Singing hymns and listening to Christian music open a window into her soul and lets God's Love shine in. Singing the words of those songs is a prayer offering for her.
Tolstoy has a great story about prayer. It is about a Bishop who meets with three Hermits isolated on a small island. He asks them how they pray and they responded by raising their faces to the sky and saying "Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us." The Bishop, determined to teach them the right way to pray, spent all day teaching the three old men The Lord's Prayer. I won't tell you the ending, but suffice to say that the Bishop realized that the three old men were already praying the 'right way' -- the way that was meaningful to them.
For me, I just start talking. Many times, I pray out loud, especially during my long commute to/from work. There is something concrete and 'real' when I speak my thoughts to God. I feel like I am making commitments, taking my sharing seriously, putting feelings and thoughts 'out there' for Him to fully digest. And music is huge for me -- whether I am singing or listening -- I feel like I am in the midst of 'holy space' between me and my Lord.
Some examples of Prayer
There is no formula to praying. You just say what is on your heart. But like lyrics to a song, there are many sources of prayers that can help you form the thoughts you wish to express. There are several prayers that are meaningful to me, for various reasons. I will share a few of them here.
Prayer of Humble Access (humility before God)
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.
The Doxology (praising)
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (focusing on my mission)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The Serenity Prayer (to help me cope with life)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
So take some time during this Lenten season, to take time for prayer. Lent is a particularly appropriate time to be a bit more thoughtful and contemplative. Maybe you can start off each morning with the following prayer called The Morning Resolve:
I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.
In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.
And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Find your special way of connecting with The Holy One and strike up a conversation. God is like the switchboard operator who is always on the other end of the line, just waiting for you to pick up the phone on the other end. He is patient; he never hangs up.
And His Wireless Network never drops a call.