I’ve been trying to pray more. I’m bad at praying. Last night my friend asked me, “Isn’t praying the same as just talking to God?” Maybe it is and I’ve been doing it wrong, but from my experience, it seems like it’s somehow spiritually and mentally different. I’m not sure how to explain it. It involves getting very close to God, and that’s intimidating. Something I have discovered that’s helped a lot, though, is that prayer starts with humility. If you realize and acknowledge how tiny you are, it becomes easier. In a way, though it is just like “talking to God,” because you have to work through exactly what it is you need. I’ve also discovered that begging doesn’t seem to work–for me at least. I’m not sure why. Generally, I think it’s because God wants me to get somewhere or discover something before he’ll give me whatever it is what I’m asking for. On the other hand, there have been occasions where I’ve just stopped and said, “Hey, listen, this is important to me. Think you could help me out?” and whatever it is will be given.
Despite the fact that I feel I’m rather awkward about it, prayer works for me. I was talking to a kid I mentored about it the other day, and he said that part of the reason he doesn’t believe in the Christian God is because prayer hadn’t worked for him. He asked me if it did work for me, and I told him that I wouldn’t have got through college if it hadn’t been for God answering my prayers. I firmly believe that he’s helped me out with everything from emotional issues to tough classes.
Something else I’ve learned is that you can’t just idly wait for God to answer prayers. A lot of times the answer to a prayer involves you doing something. A lot of time it means trying everything under the sun, and allowing God to push you in the right direction. Sometimes prayers are a little something like this: “God, I’m afraid to do X or Y, so drive me up a wall until I can’t stand it any more and just do it.” That’s worked for me before.
Ultimately, there’s no “standard” or “correct” way to pray. Different things work at different times for different reasons. I don’t always feel sincere when I recite prayers (like the Our Father or the Fatima Prayer), but sometimes I do. On the other hand, a lot of people find it a lot easier to pray if they don’t have to search for the words. Sometimes things you wouldn’t even think of are a kind of prayer, like simply being with someone, and loving them so hard it hurts. The most important thing is sincerity. Mean what you say. Don’t just pray because you’re supposed to. Pray because you want to; because you need to. Remember the good in this world. Remember the good in your life. Remember that God loves you and loves the world, and acknowledge those things because they’re important.
Like I said, I’m not very good at prayer. I feel like I could be a million times better, but the point is that God listens. It doesn’t matter how eloquent or knowledgeable you are. What matters is that you’re making an effort to communicate with the God of the Universe in a meaningful way. In effect, you’re saying “I have no idea where I’m going. You drive.”
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!