How to pray (when you suck at it)

I suck at prayer. Really, I do. 

During my junior year of high school, I took a Bible study on prayer led by my youth pastor at the time. It was held on the third floor of our old church building that towered over the small property. I wasn’t all that interested in prayer but my friend signed up, so I did too but just a couple weeks in, I was bored out of my mind! Growing up in the “Quiet Time” era within conservative evangelicalism, I was conditioned to believe it was essential for my spiritual health to wake up at the butt crack of dawn to pray. I tried so hard to make this happen but I constantly failed which made me feel guilty. Eventually, the “morning person” side of my personality kicked in during my college years, and I swung gleefully to the regimented, self-righteous, prayer-time morning routine. Every morning I would make my coffee and sit for an hour or so in prayer. I loved it but I also didn’t. I wanted to do more things with my morning like workout or have a nice breakfast. It wasn’t until life kicked the crap out of me in my 30s, that I was able to find a balance of grace and a deep love for prayer at the same time. I no longer believed prayer was done is the tiny boxes I learned growing up. It became much more expansive and accessible! Surprisingly this came from learning prayer practices outside my tradition.

It started when my non-denominational church decided to practice Lent and I was introduced to liturgy for the first time. A whole new world opened to me in that season. Since then, I have engaged in spiritual practices that have refreshed my faith and deepened my conversations with God on a regular basis. I understand the struggle of prayer and so I want to help others find both a balance of grace, and a deep love for prayer.

Here are a few tools (books, apps, and podcasts) I have used throughout the last few years that have helped me engage in prayer.

Books

A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

This was one of my first purchases and I still go back to it! It is a daily rhythm of prayer and devotion that follows the church calendar. It uses mainly scripture for the parts of prayer (petition, affirmation, thanksgiving) and is very easy to use. I love the daily short readings!

Listening Prayer by Leanne Payne

This is relatively new for me. In my last semester of my Masters of Divinity, I took a class in Spiritual Direction. My professor had me read the first half of this book and follow the structure for a “listening prayer journal”. I instantly loved the structure of this journal practice. Though it is a bit more regimented then I prefer, I eventually found the flow of this style of prayer and it has taught me how to listen to God more intentionally.

Prayer: Forty Days of Practice by Justin McRoberts & Scott Erickson

I have not personally read this book but my husband, who struggles even more with prayer, thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am also familiar with Scott Erickson‘s art and have been greatly blessed by it! This book consists of short devotions alongside Erickson’s art to aid in meditation.

Podcasts

The Daily Office Podcast

This app follows the daily office of the Anglican tradition through their Book of Common Prayer. The podcast is about 20s minutes long, containing traditional liturgy and daily scripture readings. This has been my favorite for the past couple of months. I love the confession and the amount of scripture reading you get each day.

The Brothers Zahl – Episode on Prayer

I recently listened to this episode during my daily walk. I found it extremely helpful and relatable. This podcast consists of three brothers recreating the theological discussions they had with their father growing up in the Episcopal church. The conversation is light-hearted, intelligent, and all around enjoyable on a subject many don’t know how to talk about.

Apps

Prayer As You Go

This app has it all! From learning new practices like Lectio Divina, Examine Prayer, Imaginative Prayer, and my favorite, a guided prayer walk. This app has been my go-to when exploring prayer practices outside my own tradition. They also offer a daily prayer time. Seriously, this is the app I would send people to first to learn new ways of engaging prayer.

Lectio 365

This app is so easy and rich in spiritual formation. It’s simple and follows a Lectio Divina structure that has you praying scripture each day. You have a short prayer for the morning and one for the evening. You can either read it yourself or listen to the audio. If you need a quick go-to prayer app, this is it. Just open and hit play!

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is one of those practices that has been good for my busy mind. This app not only explains Centering Prayer but gives you all the steps to enter into this silent meditation practice and even has a timer!!

I hope these few tools above will help you engage prayer in new and accessible ways, offering you permission to weave prayer into your life. Prayer isn’t just done in the mornings, it can happen throughout your entire day. One of my favorite prayers to say throughout my day is the Jesus Prayer – I wrote a blog about it here. Prayer has been a struggle for me and honestly, if I went back in time to tell that junior in high school she would be praying catholic prayers and loving it, she would think I was nuts! But the prayer practices mentioned above have truly refreshed my conversations with God and have helped me listen to God more deeply with my life. I pray they will help you too!


What has helped you with prayer? Any books or app recommendations? Comment below!


Photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer on Unsplash

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Hey friend! I'm excited to meet you! I live in Portland, OR and completely love city life. My hubby and I have been married for over 10 years and still completely adore each other. I am a Jesus follower who is passionate about building up the local church and developing healthy communities. It's so nice of you to stop by! So grab a coffee or a glass of wine, and hang out a bit.

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