Pray as you can, not as you can't
We are all made differently. What works for one person wont work for another, so here are some ideas.
This is the way we usually understand prayer. It can mean saying thank you, asking for things for ourselves and others; and is perhaps easier for extroverts - who can usually think of lots of words - than it is for introverts! However, introverts take heart - it's not the quantity, but the quality.
Most of us feel happiest doing this kind of prayer in our own homes, perhaps with a regular list (some people need, and like, lists!), perhaps just as things come to mind. Many do this within a group setting (within a formal service) or with, say the Mothers Union prayer group in St. Marys. Sometimes it can be helpful to find one or two friends to pray with on a regular basis.
Whom do you address in your prayers? Well, I think that you can address God as 'Father' if that helps you (it doesn't help everyone); you can ask Jesus to help; you can call upon the help of the Holy Spirit. I'm sure that if you just say, 'God, whoever you are,' then he quite understands!
For your own needs, if you can't think of anything else to say, I always say that 'help' is the very best form of intercession to use
(because prayer is, in essence, being willing to depend on, and to trust in, a loving God) -
and it's definitely okay to shout at God when you wonder what on earth he is up to? Someone once said that the purest form of prayer is:
'Here I am God - what a mess.'
'The beginning of prayer is silence' (Mother Theresa).
The essence of this kind of prayer is listening to God, through what comes into your consciousness as you are quiet, or through just making space within yourself for him to work. This kind of prayer is definitely easier for introverts than for extraverts!
Perhaps you can find a group where this can be done all together (sometimes it is easier to be silent in a group). Both Cleeve and Yatton have groups for what we call contemplative prayer or meditation.
On your own, I suspect it's best to start small. Seven minutes is a good starting time and you may find it so helpful that you begin to want to extend it. You can use a kitchen 'pinger' to help you keep track of time, and then find somewhere comfortable to relax - lying, sitting or kneeling, whichever is the most comfortable. For some people, it is very hard to believe that this is 'real' prayer, but God seems to work through it nonetheless!
Perhaps repeat a phrase - 'Father' or 'Come Holy Spirit.' Perhaps light a candle and watch the flame. Perhaps sit with a view of your garden and just be aware of the beauty God has put around you. Use this time as space for God to work his healing within you - you may wonder, at first, what good it is doing, or what you are getting out of it; but take heart - prayer always seems to change things.
And just a cautionary thought - if the silence brings up things which become too painful or uncomfortable, then get some help from a member of the clergy, a prayerful member of the congregation or a counsellor.
Some people find it helpful to have a regular, formally constructed prayer time. As Woody Allen said, 'Eighty per cent of life is just turning up,' and prayer is a bit like that.
There are lots of useful books in Christian bookshops. The team here use a book called 'Celebrating Common Prayer'
which gives different prayers and readings for each day of the week. If it looks like just too many words,
then you can obtain shortened versions, which take about 10 minutes. You can initially try to read it every morning.
You may then find that the evening prayer just before bed is helpful.
The Benedictines talk of 'lectio divina' which is roughly translated, 'holy reading.' You can use a Bible passage (buy a lectionary, a list of readings for each day, to guide you) or just a thoughtful book. Read until you find a word or a phrase which speaks to you, and spend time dwelling on it. Or you could just take the sense of a whole passage and spend time thinking about it, praying through its implications for you.
Either that or find a set of Bible study notes which 'works' for you - one size does NOT fit all.
Perhaps, with any method of prayer, regularity is something really good to work towards, (says someone who still hasn't mastered it) because if your spiritual life feels dry, it is sometimes (but certainly not always - tiredness, depression, personal problems can all affect our spiritual life) due to lack of prayer. It is easy, for instance, to blame church services for this ('too long, too boring, dull sermon, dreadful music'), but if you go in having opened yourself to God first, it is surprising what you can get out of it, and what God can say to you through it!
I suppose that as a regular diet can be boring at times, wonderful at others, but good for the physical health,
so prayer can sometimes be dull as ditchwater, sometimes wonderfully helpful, but, overall, part of God's work in us for spiritual,
emotional and mental wholeness.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways,
Reclothe us in our rightful mind
In purer lives thy service find
In deeper reverence, praise
In deeper reverence, praise.
Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all our strivings cease
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace
The beauty of thy peace.
Lord, come to me, my door is open
Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed of which you planted in me at my making. Out of the deep, I cry to you, oh Lord.
Here I am, Lord. What a mess.
ps Sometimes a situation is so hurtful or difficult, that you cannot pray at all. If so, perhaps you can ask others to pray for you. You can either ask the clergy for some individual time (and you will find their telephone numbers on this website) or you can ring the office (ditto) and ask to be put on our prayer list, which we use daily at our morning prayer and we can hold you, or the person you love, before God on your behalf.