Prayer as a Conversation
Seeing prayer as a conversation should make it more manageable for most people. Those of us who are introverts might not like big noisy conversations but, nevertheless, conversation is something which all of us engage in and most of us have enjoyed, at least from time to time. If you have ever come away from talking with someone and thought - I enjoyed that conversation - then you are well on your way to having a good prayer life.
Conversation is so normal to us. If you watch young children in the school yard they are chattering and scheming all the time. They have their secrets and their friends, they have their stories and their worries - and quite freely and naturally they share these with each other. They don't worry about what someone else will think of them - no one has taught them that yet.
That sort of honest conversation is the basis of our prayer life. God knows who we are, there is no need to pretend. There is something very freeing about being able to let go of all those years of accrued expectations and worries. But all those things we pick up over the years tend to stick pretty close to us and the thought of talking to God - who does know us so well - can be frightening - after all in our world there is always an element of being something other, isn't there? We dress in clothes to say who we are, we drive a car which tells people something, or we don't which tells them something else, we wear our hair a certain way - is it hiding or self-expression? Asking these questions can seem very daunting.
The writers of the Psalms understood what this was like, and in Psalm 139 the Psalmist talks about God "knitting us together in our mother's womb." This is not a God who is distant and uncaring, this is a God who really wants to talk to us, who really wants to hear our voice calling God's name. God is ready for the conversation.
If you have not said any prayers for a long time you might find this helpful. To begin with, try to find somewhere you can sit or kneel comfortably and quietly. If that doesn't work out you can talk to God anywhere.
I know I have not talked to you for a long time (ever)
But I really want to believe you are there
I really want to be able to have a conversation with you
Please help me.
Now just tell God, in normal words, the things which are on your mind. Leave some space now and then - it might not feel like God is doing much but if you don't leave and gaps it is really hard to have a two way conversation. Most people do not hear a voice when they talk to God, some people feel a presence, some people feel calmer, some people find they can sort things out or feel comforted.
Try to set up a routine to pray - as you get better at it you might like some more formal prayers. Try out some of these resources.
- An invitation to Prayer
- The Book of Common Prayer Online
- Morning and Evening Prayer
- Ten Ways to Pray
- Sacred Space - A Jesuit Site from Ireland offering ten minute meditations
- World Prayers - not all Christian but worth a look