Praying can be intimidating because, well, God can be intimidating. If we have not established a regular prayer practice, that first prayer in a while can feel forced, awkward, inauthentic, or riddled with guilt. Whatever do we say to God? Where do we start?
I usually start by remembering that prayer does not have to be talking, on my knees with my head bowed and my hands crossed. Enjoying things we love–really good reading, music, food, company, exercise etc–can be prayer. Basking in creation is prayer. Action is prayer. Our lives are a prayer to God. I also try to remember that prayer goes better for me when I start not with talking, but with listening. To learn to pray, we must first learn to listen.
Yet, at some point, finding words in prayer is meaningful for me. Speaking words of prayer change my spirit and overflow to my life. Maybe God knows my words before I speak them, but the act of speaking is a way of showing up in God’s presence. Lately, I have circled back to Anne Lamott’s simple words of prayer: Help, Thanks, Wow. It is a helpful framework, a good start that invokes vulnerability, gratitude and awe, three things I want to cultivate in my life. If you find your prayer life is at a loss for word, give it a try.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.–Psalm 22:1-7,11
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.–Psalm 118:21-29
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. –Eph 3:14-21