While I don’t have any magical prayer advice (as I said in the previous post), allow me to share some useful practices that have helped shape my attentiveness towards God:
- Praying the Psalms. Sometimes I just don’t know what to say to God. Reading the prayers of psalmists who lived thousands of years ago can be a surprisingly meaningful way of waking up my heart and offering words when I didn’t think there is anything to say. The biblical psalms have a way of taking me by the hand and leading me to paths of repentance, praise, thanksgiving, and even lament. Check out this article for more reasons to pray the Psalms: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/october/35.88.html?paging=off
- Go for a walk. I have ADXD (the Xtreme version of ADD). This means that prayer can be a real challenge if I’m sitting still with hands folded and eyes closed. A few years ago I discovered that praying while walking allowed me to focus my heart and mind in a way I was never able to do while sitting inside. This is now one of my favorite things to do. Being outdoors, away from controllable conditions and eight-foot ceilings, reminds me that I am less significant (in a good way) than I often imagine when surrounded by hundreds of gadgets and systems in place to make me comfortable. On windy days it is as though God’s wild Spirit is walking by my side, listening and speaking like an intimate companion.
- Pray the names of God. As the revelation of God unfolds in His Word, God is given countless names that point to various aspects of His divine character. He revealed Himself to Abraham as the God who Provides, to the people of Israel as the God who Heals, and to David as a Shepherd, a Fortress, and a Light. Using different names in prayer directs us to God’s past faithfulness and reminds us just what kind of God we’re praying to.
- Write your prayers in a journal. I think this prayer-practice has been more transformative than any other in my life. Writing prayers down forces you to actually think about what you’re saying. While I often absentmindedly pray things like, “Thank you for this day” with my mouth, filtering words through a pen reduces and refines my chatter into genuine prayer. And just like a family photo album can be a fun and important method of recording life with loved ones, having a prayer journal allows you to look back and see your relationship with God mature through times of celebration, struggle, and change.
I’m a little hesitant to put excerpts from my prayer journals in this post since Jesus talks about praying alone in a closet (and the Internet isn’t exactly a private place). Still, these examples offer a picture of the way God has used journaling to deepen our relationship and to draw me to Him in all times and circumstances. I hope it is helpful…
How good it is to come to you with a tangled heart and to tell you everything, not stopping till I’m completely laid bare before You. Here is where you break through the mess and finally speak to me. There is nothing more lovely than hearing Your voice and talking with you honestly and opening—even about my jumbled soul. You still the storm with Your mighty voice, “Trust, son. Trust.”
Thank you for wise people like C.S. Lewis who stretch the boundaries of our minds in what it means to love You. I am reading The Great Divorce and learning lots.
God, my humanity has been reduced to efficiency. The heart you gave me to be a temple I have turned into a factory. Make my heart softer and gentler. Let it always be found at Your feet. Keep me from becoming wise in my own eyes or anything stupid like that. I am in the middle of this process of being made new, somewhere between grape-flavored water and watered down wine. For some reason I thought this happened instantly.
Ahhhhhh! I am full to the brim with praises to You. Tonight I got to experience the answer to 8 years of praying. My dear friend came over and shared what You’ve been doing in his life lately. All I can say is PRAISE YOU! PRAISE YOU! PRAISE YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank You for this story You are telling!
Lord, life is bigger than I thought. I do not know the way to go. I feel so sure about one path one instant and then 20 seconds later another path seems like the right one. I am so confused, God! Ahh, being a person is so multifaceted! It’s too much sometimes. Tell me You love me, that ever applicable truth.
Confront me, Almighty God. Confront me with your Word, your Truth, your Spirit. Confront my ways, confront my sin, confront my attitudes, confront my choices, confront my feeble beliefs, confront my idols, confront my small ideas of you. Confront me so that I cay come back under your headship and authority.
God, sometimes I love your Word so much, like a person clinging to a photograph of a separated loved one, or like the way I’ve saved my dad’s voice on my phone so I can hear it whenever I want. That’s the way I love your Words. Sometimes I long to stand before you like one of the children from the Narnia books, to stand in your great shadow waiting—excited and afraid to hear your voice! But other times I don’t really care. In these times it’s like I’m numb to your Words, or just plain tired of having a relationship with a God who isn’t here in person to look at and talk to. I guess it’s like any other relationship; there will be ups and downs, highs and lows, mountains and valleys. Give me a strong heart that can hope past times of tastelessness, like the tree Jeremiah talks about: “It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Bryant, your suggestion to praying the Psalms is timely as I’m reading them now. Grandpa is en route home now. I know that he had a special time with you & Amanda.
Wow, I really hadn’t ever really thought about doing a prayer journal. In elementary school we did this thing where we wrote letters to God so I guess that’s the exact same thing, but it is something I need to do more often. Sometimes I feel like what I’m saying doesn’t really mean anything, or it takes me a while to actually find how to put what I want to say to God into words. Taking the time to make a journal entry and filter what I say to God will be very useful to me and something I definitely should do more often.
Reading through Guidepost was the path that brought me to your blog.
Do you have thoughts about some particular Psalms that would help a person begin a prayer journey of this kind?
Your “gifts” are encouraging, convicting, and thought provoking. I am hoping for 365 of them!
The cool thing about the Psalms is that they give a picture of prayer in all kinds of situations–times of celebration and thanksgiving, but also times of trouble and sorrow. In that sense, they’re all worth reading 🙂 But some of my favorites are Psalm 13, Psalm 25, Psalm 42, Psalm 63, and Psalm 103. Enjoy!