What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I pray?”
There, I’ve admitted it. My prayers stink.
Some people find it easy to recite articulate, power-packed prayers. I never have. My prayers seem to be no more than weak thoughts expressed in even weaker sentences.
For years, I’d struggled with my prayers. Trying hard to emulate others only managed to leave me discouraged and embarrassed. Joining my church’s prayer and praise group didn’t help either—until I gathered enough courage to admit my greatest weakness. I simply didn’t know how to pray.
It was during one of the group’s weekly prayer marathons that, when unable to offer even a short bumbling prayer, I burst into tears. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I pray the way we’re supposed to?” I cried.
Francis, a woman I had secretly admired for her ability to pray, gasped in surprise. “But, you do!” she told me. “I’ve always thought your appeals were the kind God enjoyed listening to— loving and honest.”
She really has to be kidding, I thought. Has she even heard me lately? When I’m not jumbling my thoughts all together, my lips are tripping over my clumsy tongue. If God enjoys that kind of praying, it must be because He’s in need of a good chuckle.
What I didn’t know was that Francis was right. God did indeed enjoy my prayers. Why? Because they came from me.
the right way to pray
The way I pray is the right way. And so is the way you pray. Praying doesn’t have to be difficult. You talk. God listens. It’s that easy. Each of us would find sitting down to devotions much simpler if we could just find a way to forget our preconceived notions of correct prayer “methods” and just start chatting.
Who cares if you stumble over thoughts or even your tongue? God doesn’t. Isaiah 65:24 reminds us that God hears us even before we speak. What a relief! Neither you nor I have to worry the next time our minds go blank in midsentence. Sure, God may not be able to decipher our words any better than anyone else, but He can read what’s being said in our hearts.
The key is to be yourself. For me, that means moving quickly from one subject to another as thoughts about those I care about jump into my head and out my mouth.
For you, honest communication with God may be in the form of appeals or, yes, sometimes even complaints. Don’t hold back. The psalmists didn’t. They cried, whined, griped, and even made a few accusations.
We should try to become as comfortable talking with God as we would a human friend. That means prayer should:
- Be honest. David acknowledged that God deserves no less. He wrote, “Surely you desire truth” (Psalm 51:6).
- Reflect your feelings. Are you lonely? Afraid? Joyous? Let God help you through the bad times. But don’t forget to let Him share the good times too.
- Be frequent. You may think there’s nothing to say, but rarely do any of us have absolutely nothing to share.Take time each and every day to spend one-on-one with your Creator. You need it. And He wants it.
If you’re like me, you may still be asking, “How can I make praying less difficult?”
The best answer anyone can offer is that you must find your own way. Not everyone does—or should—pray alike. For some, prayer may be done in complete privacy (even away from family or friends), while others feel more than comfortable praying openly in large groups. Still others find it beneficial to begin their prayer time by reading to God either devotionals that express their own personal feelings or prayers from the Bible.
Pray with your heart, not your head. In the end, the words you use and how you say them doesn’t matter. God doesn’t care if you’re on your knees, driving the car, or folding laundry when you pray. What He does care about is your willingness to set aside a few extra minutes from your hectic life to open your heart to Him.
Why can’t I pray the right way? I do . . . and so do you.
WAYS YOU CAN PRAY
- Use music. For centuries people have used hymns as yet another way to express their love and faithfulness toward God. Nowadays, more and more of us are turning to modern praise tapes (found with both traditional and contemporary themes) to bring focus and the Holy Spirit closer to our hearts.
- Try worshiping God outdoors. For some, there’s no greater way to snuggle up close to God than to enjoy His creation. Take a walk in the woods. Begin by thanking Him (either vocally or silently) for each animal, plant, or scene that grabs your attention. Before long you’ll realize that you’ve been sharing more than just a walk—you’ve been sharing yourself.
- Draw a picture. Children do it all of the time; why shouldn’t adults? Were you so overwhelmed by last night’s sunset that you feel a need to express your gratitude? What better way than to draw God a picture of it.
- Write God a letter. If you’re one of those people who would rather pick up a pen than a telephone, you may find praying easier in a letter.
- Start a prayer journal. It can be as involved as trying your hand at writing your own personal psalm for God or as simple as keeping a list of your family’s needs and praises. Either way, a prayer journal may help you organize your thoughts.
- Enlist help. Sometimes, having a prayer partner helps you set aside a regular time for God. Expressing your concerns and praises to God with that partner may be a good first step toward building stronger devotions.