In his book A Year of Living Prayerfully, Jared Brock describes in a humorous but poignant way his journey around the world to discover and explore how different believers pray—their practices, methods, habits, and styles. More than compile a list of techniques, he wanted to experience prayer in full from different perspectives and denominational outlooks. So he and his wife dedicated an entire year to the task.
Among other places, his travels took him to:
- Ontario, Canada, where a prayer strategies specialist told him of the spectacular answers to prayer he has witnessed.
- New York, where he learned the prayer traditions of Hasidic Jews.
- Jerusalem, where he visited the different sites and churches and learned about traditional and ritualistic prayer, and realized that prayer isn’t the practice of the right poses, but a relationship you pursue.
- Mount Athos in Greece, where the resident Orthodox monks consider prayer to be the art of arts and science of sciences and find inspiration in simple living and repetitive prayers.
- Spain, where he immersed himself in mysticism.
- France, where he visited the Carmelite monastery and saw where Brother Lawrence had turned common tasks into times of prayer, as described in The Practice of the Presence of God. Then on to Taizé, an international ecumenical gathering place where Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians pray together in peace and unity.
Brock relays that he tried to find quick, easy and efficient ways to come to God, but found that the true meaning of prayer is just being with God.
We don’t have to go around the world to learn about prayer like Brock did. We just have to learn to connect with Godby using the approaches that work best for us. The important thing is being with God, or talking with Him, regardless of the method we employ.
For some, it could be a sung prayer, for others a written prayer. Many times, all we can do is send a short prayer; other times it’s good to take longer to pour out our hearts, followed by a time of silence to hear what God may speak to our hearts in reply.
Sometimes our prayers will be very eloquent and articulate; other times, we find ourselves tongue-tied or stammering. Not to worry. God hears every prayer and makes sense of each one, even those that sound clumsy or fuzzy.
Sometimes we feel like expressing ourselves with our plain candid words; other times we might want to pray with the Scriptures, paraphrasing Bible verses or the Psalms.
At times we might yearn for a solemn place like a church or a sanctuary or a beautiful natural spot where we can easily disconnect from the noise and distractions of the world; other times we might be walking down a busy street and sending prayers up for the people we pass or for a friend or a relative in need or for the sad state the world is in.
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the spice for prayer. Follow routines that help you concentrate and be regular, but also venture out and try different methods, or pray in different places, or with different people. Learn from others’ experiences.
God’s Word does give us some guidelines, such as:
- Start with love.—“Let all that you do be done in love.”[[1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV]]
- Cleanse your heart.—“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.”[[Psalm 66:18–19 NIV]]
- Avoid senseless repetitions.—“When you pray, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”[[Matthew 6:7–8 AMP]]
- Be motivated not merely by a sense of duty or obligation.—“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”[[Jeremiah 29:13 NIV]]
- Be humble.—“We are not presenting our petitions before you based on our righteous acts, but based on your abundant compassion.”[[Daniel 9:18 CSB]]
- Have faith.—“Ask in faith, with no doubting.”[[James 1:6]]
- Forgive first.—“When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against.”[[Mark 11:25 NLT]]
- Align your life with His rules.—“Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”[[1 John 3:22 KJV]]
- Banish selfish motives.—“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”[[James 4:3 NASB]]
- Stay within God’s will.—“This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”[[1 John 5:14]]
It is the quality, not the quantity of our prayers that count. He is more concerned with sincerity than eloquence. He hears every prayer that comes from the heart and often answers in ways we would have never imagined. It pays to trust in Him.