“Mom! It was so cool!…”
The words flowed fast and wild from the moment the car door opened. Words about his classes, his friends, his plans for the future…. And when the door slammed again outside his piano teacher’s house—instant silence.
On days like this, my husband and I joke that our ears hurt. But the truth is, we love it and soak it in. Because the drought will come again— the days when one of our kids is less chatty or more sullen, and we’ll long for them to talk to us, to let us know what’s wrong, or to ask for help.
Though the memory of this event almost feels like a movie, and I no longer chauffeur my now-grown son, my heart still flutters when he knocks on the office door to talk—my work can wait!
God Wants A Relationship With You
If prayer’s new to you or you’re not comfortable with it yet, it’s easy to think it has to be complicated, that there’s a right way to pray. And admonition to just start praying can seem simplistic.
I understand, because I used to think that, too.
- I felt silly praying. It felt like talking to myself — and was anyone even listening?
- I didn’t want to do it wrong. But I didn’t know the “right” way to pray.
- The Bible shows examples of prayer, but are those the exact words we’re supposed to pray or are they serving suggestions? I didn’t know.
But here’s the thing: what if our Heavenly Father sees prayer the way I see conversation with my son?
Suddenly the mystery and legalism are taken out of prayer.
I look at conversations with my son and recall the feelings I have when he talks to me.
- I love his infectious energy as he tells me what he’s excited about—from college plans to his most recent video game achievements.
- My heart sings to hear him process world events out loud, as he shares his thoughts—and why the people on TikTok are wrong this time.
- I enjoy the moments he sits in my office in silence, evidence that he’s content in my presence.
- When he asks for my help or advice, it’s a reminder he trusts me and knows I’m here for him.
- And nothing makes this mama’s heart skip a beat more than to overhear, “My mom says…”—it reminds me he values my insights.
When I keep in mind that God wants a relationship with me, the mental barriers that keep me from praying disappear.
You don’t have to be a parent to appreciate the illustration. How do you feel when a friend, co-worker, family member, or grocery store clerk seeks your advice? Or confides in you a small insight into their lives?
That’s what we’re going for when we talk to God: “I see you, I appreciate you, and I want to tell you about my day.”
Okay, But How Should I Pray?
Your phone beeps its notification. A quick glance shows you got a message from a friend, and you grin wide. Whether through email, text, or phone, it’s always good to hear from someone you care about.
Although long chats over tea and scones may be your favorite way to connect with your friend, you still appreciate
- a 10-minute coffee break,
- a Zoom call,
- or a playdate chat while you fold laundry and the Crazy Wild Things run around your house — who doesn’t feel closer to someone when they’re watching you fold underwear?
Imagine your Heavenly Father feels the same way.
It’s great when we can carve out long periods of alone time to spend with God, to talk to Him and read His Word. But that’s not always feasible—either because of the season of life you’re in, or because you weren’t wired to sit for long periods of time.
Just Start the Conversation
Of course, our earthly relationships don’t go from meeting in an elevator to folding undies in front of each other overnight. (Well, I hope not.)
How does a relationship grow from the awkward phase into one of mutual trust and love? You have to spend time together—lots and lots of time; there’s no shortcut, even with God.
Although a relationship through prayer may feel awkward at first, rest assured the Creator of the Universe does not feel awkward.
And I promise you: as with human relationships, communication with God will get easier as the relationship gets stronger.
So how can you pray? Here are some quick ways to get you started.
Some Simple Ways to Pray
1. Let your to-do list dictate your prayers
Rather than try to fit prayer onto your to-do list, let your to-do list dictate your prayers.
- As you create your list of chores for the day, review your plans with God and ask Him to guide your decisions.
- While you cook dinner, thank God for the food He’s provided, pray for the people who’ll eat the food and grow strong as a result of it. You can also pray for those who helped grow, transport, and sell it to you.
- It’s appropriate to pray any time you switch tasks on your to-do list, and it’s especially important when you need extra peace to gear up for the next chore— such as working on an important project, dealing with a negative person, or watching the news.
2. Use your emotions as reminders to pray
It’s easy to let our emotions overwhelm us some days. But what if we used them as a reminder to talk to God about the situations that spur those emotions?
Whether you’re experiencing
- Frustration or disappointment about someone else’s behavior or your own,
- Anger over a politician’s decisions, or
- Fear and anxiety over current events,
it’s completely appropriate to take those emotions to God in prayer.
Likewise, positive emotions—such as love, joy, and contentment— are perfect reasons to praise our Heavenly Father and thank Him for all the ways He continues to bless us.
3. Reclaim spare moments for prayer
As I write, the world is locked down because of coronavirus and social distancing, but I assume that before we know it we’ll return to our hectic schedule of appointments and chauffeuring kids.
You may want to use the down time during piano lessons for yourself: to scroll Instagram or write a grocery list or listen to a podcast.
But peace comes when we slow down and talk to God— a peace that’s absent when we frantically check off one more item.
4. Choose reminders from all around you
Do you feel closer to God when you look at the clouds? Perhaps the flowers that line your sidewalk remind you of Him?
Choose one of God’s creations, anything you see on a regular basis throughout the day, and each time you encounter it, use it as a cue to stop and talk to God about whatever’s on your heart at the moment.
Likewise, you can use inanimate objects to remind you to pray for others, to pray for your hopes and dreams, or to ask for help for a particular situation.
- A wedding band or photo may remind you to pray for your husband or a friend.
- Your empty ring finger or your laptop may remind you to pray for God to introduce you to your future spouse or help you reach your dream to write a book.
- The potholder your beloved aunt gave you may remind you to ask God for His peace while you struggle with your loved one’s death.
You may think we can only talk to God on our knees, or pray in a specific place such as a church or prayer closet. But the Bible reminds us to “pray continually,” which implies prayer can be more like a string of text messages than an hour-long lecture. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
What If I Don’t Know What to Pray?
If you’re not sure what you need, or aren’t certain how to say it, rest assured: God already knows what you need. (Matthew 6:8) Also, keep in mind this isn’t a one-sided relationship. He will help you.
In fact, the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit intervenes on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27), according to God’s will, when we don’t know what to pray — so if your heart’s in the right place, you can’t get it wrong.
You’re Building a Relationship
It’s easy to approach God like we would approach an important celebrity or Head of State—someone who doesn’t have time for us or for whom specific protocols are in place.
Fortunately, Jesus’ death took away all the obstacles that prevent us from approaching our Heavenly Father directly (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 11:24)
Just as I love it when my son comes to me about anything, how much more so does God want His children to approach Him?
- Does he love it when we tell Him what we’re thinking, what we’re excited about, and what worries us—even though none of it surprises Him?
- Does His heart sing to hear us process world events as we wrestle to understand them and seek His wisdom?
- Does He enjoy the moments when we sit in His presence, content not to speak?
- Does He long for us to ask for His help and advice, to take notice of Him, to check in with Him throughout the day so He knows we trust and value Him?
- Is He overjoyed when he hears us tell our friends, “My God says…”?
I suspect the answer to each of these questions is, “Yes!”
Whether you’re just beginning your prayer journey or you’ve been praying for decades, how does thinking about prayer as building (or continuing) a relationship with God change your perspective?