Category Archives: Faith

Close up of two hands reaching each other with fingers

10 radical ways to pray

Has your prayer life gone a bit stale? Are you struggling to find a way to pray that suits you? Perhaps the hands-together-eyes-closed method fills you with dread?

Prayer is about developing your relationship with God. We are all unique and, as such, will all have a unique relationship with God. Each of us needs to find a method of prayer that suits us. Here are a few things you could try:

  1. Sing or dance along to your favourite music – allow yourself to enjoy the music and the lyrics. You might be pulled towards using worship music but you don’t have to! I heard a story about a couple of ladies praying while dancing to ABBA! In-between lines, call out your prayers, they don’t have to be complicated, just 1 or 2 words is enough. Maybe just name the people that are on your heart at the moment.
  2. Close up of shoes walkingWhile you’re walking – getting out into nature is a great way to clear the mind and focus it on God but if you don’t have time to go for a specific “prayer walk”, use anytime you’re walking. How often do you walk along looking at your phone, it’s become quite a hazard! Instead, whether it’s picking up the children from school or walking to the bus stop, look around you, use these few minutes to talk to God.
  3. Chant – if focusing is particularly difficult for you, pick a phrase that you can repeat, either in your head or out loud, examples include: “Hallelujah”, “Lord have mercy” and “Lord, take me as I am”. You can spend just 1 minute or many minutes repeating a single phrase, allowing it to wash over you. You could use this as your prayer time or as a lead into another form of prayer.
  4. Pull up a chair – are you struggling to know what to say to God or how to start? Pull up an empty chair and talk to God as if talking to your best friend. Literally chat to him, tell him about your day, about your worries and your desires.
  5. Open bible with painted rose and handwritten script “Let the words of my mouth & the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight”Paint, colour or craft – being creative is a wonderful way to praise God. Whether you’re ‘gifted’ or not, whether you create something display worthy or not, that’s not the point. You may want to create something with a specific purpose, for example, a prayer shawl . Or being creative may simply be a way of keeping your hands busy so that you find it easier to keep your mind focused on God.
  6. Use a newspaper – open up the paper, read the headlines (try not to get drawn into the sensationalism). Spend time meditating on each headline, allow your thoughts to move from topic to topic naturally either closer to home or internationally. If you find it helpful to do something active, you could cut out the headlines, or cut of specific words and lay them out, perhaps stick them in a notebook or onto a pin board for use in a later prayer session.
  7. Surfing the internet – use your preferred search engine, you can literally type in anything you want and use the results to guide your prayer, after all, pretty much everything in the world needs prayer! A couple of ideas: ‘What charities are in my local area?’ or ‘what countries need prayer?’. Use what you find to direct your prayers.
  8. Sitting in a coffee shop – purchase your favourite beverage and do some people watching. You don’t need to stare or judge people, just allow your thoughts to wonder. You don’t know anyone’s story but everyone has needs, pray that each person you see will feel God’s love in their life. Listen to anything God moves you to do – he may prompt you to speak to a stranger so be prepared! You may be prompted to pray for yourself and that’s ok or the things you see may prompt you to pray for people you know, consider this an open dialogue with God, the coffee shop is simple the backdrop.
  9. Close up of an open bibleLet your Bible fall open at a random point – close your eyes and point to a verse. Read this verse; it might not mean anything immediately but consider each word carefully and let it guide the direction of your prayers. If you feel a completely random verse isn’t leading you anywhere a good place to start is the Psalms, these are pre-written prayers and there’s a lot of variety And they speak of the difficulties we face today.
  10. Pick a word – any word, maybe ‘broken’, ‘starlight’ or ‘triggering’, write it down, think about what it means to you – use word association to direct your prayers. As you focus on a new word, write it down. If you find your mind wondering fast onto unassociated things, try using the original word as an acrostic, e.g. if you’re using broken, think of a work beginning with ‘b’ (balancing), then think of a word beginning with ‘r’ (radical), write them down and focus on each word in turn, see if specific people come to mind when you think of each word, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know why, just focus on them as you pray.

None of these are drastically radical, I know, but it’s just a case of trying something a bit different. If you’re struggling to pray or feeling a bit stagnant, sometimes we need a shake up. It doesn’t matter if you stick with one of these activities for a period of time or if you try each one of them once, the idea is that these will help you think outside the box and that you will find a form of prayer that suits you.

Lady sitting under a tree at dusk with outstretched arms
Question marks in speak bubbles

What do you say when you pray?

A young man, struggling with his prayer life had the opportunity to commune with Mother Teresa towards the end of her life. He thought this the ideal opportunity to get some tips on how to pray so he asked:

“What do you say when you pray?”

“My brother,” she replied, “I do not say anything, I listen.”

“Wow” thought the young man, she must have some amazing stories to tell about what God has said to her if she’s been listening this whole time. So he asked, “What does God say to you?”

“Nothing,” she replied, “he listens.”

Hands clasp in prayer

I don’t know if this story is accurate but its moral remains the same.

How many of us are quick to reel off a list to God, whether it be a list of confessions, blessings or requests? We think our words are what God listens to but the truth is God knows what is on our hearts before we speak to him, as Matthew 6:8b says:

“…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Perhaps we could steal ourselves to listen to God but the 2nd half of the story is pretty scary isn’t it? What if we don’t hear anything back?! If God doesn’t talk to Mother Teresa he’s not going to speak to me, is he?! But he does – God speaks to us in ways other than audible words: through the words of other people, through the actions of other people or through the things we see happening around us. We just need to listen and we will hear.

Hnad behind ear, listening

There is no right way to pray. Praying in silence won’t suit everyone but praying is about your relationship with God. If you don’t give the relationship time and space, it simply can’t develop. Praying needs to be a 2 way process between you and God, whether you’re praying the Psalms, singing Matt Redman, dancing to ABBA, painting, reading the Bible, walking or in silence, I challenge you to listen to God listening to you and you’ll experience a new transcendent relationship.

Question marks

The Big Questions – live debate, an experience

I hope you can excuse a little self indulgence while I digest what just happened… Some of you will have seen me on The Big Questions (TBQ) on BBC1 today debating the subject “Is religion good for your mental health”. If you missed it, you can catch it on iPlayer here. It was my 2nd experience of live TV, it’s kinda fun being treated like an important person for a couple of hours. I was asked if I enjoyed it… I think I can certainly say it was an experience but, enjoy? I’m not sure!

In case you don’t know me, in a nutshell, I woulnd’t be alive right now if it were not for my faith. I don’t always tak about my faith, for more details see here. But there’s no escaping it now – live on BBC1 I stated that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Quote from John chapter 13, verse 34. As I have loved you, love one another

To be honest, right now I feel overwhelmed with sadness that people claim to be working in the name of God, express hatred towards other human beings. I have been brought up to love everyone, I don’t think this was part of my “religious upbringing” or it’s just a descent thing to do. I do not judge people, it is not my place – I treat others as I would like to be treated.

First things first, I’m not out to convert anyone – I share my religious views, if you don’t share them, please do not dismiss me, please do not label me as “judgmental” or assume I hold views that you haven’t asked me about. I share my experiences in case they will help other people.

If someone doesn’t want to experience a personal relationship for God, I’m not going to force it on them. If, however, you’re looking for one and all you hear is “you’re a bad person”, “you’re sinful”, “you’re going to hell”, “you need change before you’re accepted” – this is fundamentally wrong. These words are human in origin, this is not what God says. If you’ve had a bad experience of religion, long story short, it’s likely to have been the human element (i.e. other human’s telling you what you should think or how you should behave) that messed it up, not God.

God loves me despite how much or how little I have it together

My experience of God is simple – he loves me for who I am, just the way I am, if I make a mistake he has forgiven me before I do it. He invites me into a personal, loving, relationship with him. As a Anglican Christian, I am fortunate that with my faith comes a loving community – this is not everyone’s experience of Christianity and I feel pretty angry about that.

Predictably, there were people on TBQ who had bad experiences with religion and, rightfully so, wanted to get their voice heard. There were also people who weren’t bothered by religion who didn’t think it was something they needed in order to be healthy. As I have previously found, people who feel they have been wronged have a very loud voice. I find myself wondering what people want when they shout about a bad experience, often an answer to this question is not forthcoming. The need to be heard is powerful but often people don’t think they have been heard unless you agree with them.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say

I do not dismiss other people’s experiences, I find it hurtful and disrespectful when my experience is disregarded or laughed at. Although I felt respected by all staff working on the production, I was surprised at the “guests” and members of public before and after the debate. A debate is a forum where opposing arguments can be put forward – perhaps I was expecting people to actually listen respectfully to each other but this wasn’t what people wanted to do. People spoke over each other and took the topic off tangent to make unconnected points.

In summary, am I glad I agreed to go on TBQ? On balance, yes but there’s no way this subject could be fully explored in such a short time or with people who just want to get their point across without fully listening to other people.

Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen to reply. Stephen Covey