Have you ever felt your times of talking and listening with God (your personal prayer times) could be more powerful? Might you be looking to kickstart or renew your daily pattern of prayer at the start of a new year?
If so, you are not alone!
There is no right way or ‘one size fits all’ for how we pray, different patterns will suit different people; but for all of us personal prayer is a vital part of developing our relationship with our Heavenly Father. What we will offer here are suggestions for you to try, adapt or store away for future use as is best for you.
Is there something you have found helpful that you would be willing to share? If so please contact Carolyn Dykes at prayer@ulverstonparishchurchorg
‘I find using my hand and specifically my fingers give me a good structure for my daily prayers. My thumb is for thanksgiving, my index finger for those closest to me, my middle finger for those in leadership; with my ring finger I remember those in need and then my little finger is for anything for myself. I also use prayer diaries from various Christian organisations, and I try to spend a time of waiting on God as well as in intercessory prayer, but I am not a natural contemplative, so I have to discipline myself to spend time in silence rather than moving on to the next prayer topic. Normally, I finish with the Lord’s Prayer.’
’I start my quiet time with bible study and mediation, this leads on to a time of prayer with a page or so of names of those I pray for daily. I then have a weekly pattern for other significant groups like wider family, neighbours, golf buddies, ex colleagues, and friends. The time spent has certainly increased since retirement, but the pattern has been the same. I now also use a short period before sleep to pray for the church family and use material from mission organisations. This is the set pattern, but I find also that prayer thoughts come during the day, I trust prompted by the Spirit.’
’I too start the day by reading some short bible notes. When we had young children, I used to do this at night. My notes are simple with one thought for the day. I try to spend a few minutes thinking about them and thanking God for answered prayers and the new day. I have a small notebook with the names of a few people to pray for each day and I also use a few prayer letters from things like Jigsaw and overseas missions. Sometimes Cod lays something particular upon my heart and I find myself praying as I am busy through the day or when I wake at night. This is when I find God speaks to me in particular perhaps with a picture. It does not happen often but its very special when it does. The important thing is just to keep talking to God whenever you have time, no matter how little you have.’
’l have found the App ‘Pray As You Go’ to be a helpful resource which I try to use each day. I try to make space afterwards for silent prayer.
I then have different ways in which I pray, I use a variety through the week and not necessarily every day. l have made a string of beads as a prompt to pray for different people. I chose beads that remind me of those I want to pray for. For example, our daughter Merrin loved treasures as a child, so I chose a gold bead for her. The Methodist website has a section called ‘Venerable Beads’ which has a guide on how to use beads to aid praying.
I also finding ‘holding prayer’ helpful where I imagine the person being held in God’s hand. Also, imaginative contemplation where l have a conversation with Jesus.
If I am out walking mostly on the hills, I speak a word (in my head) of a simple prayer such as The Jesus Prayer as I take each step. If I am somewhere more populated, I pray blessing on people and events as they unfold.
I value journaling, guided retreats and listening to podcasts as other ways of strengthening my prayer life.’
I sit looking out to the garden and a vast expanse of sky which leads very naturally into praise prayer. Then I read from whichever book of the bible I’m working through, choosing as much or as little as I sense appropriate for that day.
I use a notebook to record how God has spoken to me through the text (and sometimes talk to Him about it!) Next, I use the other half of my notebook to pray through two lists; one is material I share with a Prayer Partner which includes relatives and friends. The other list is where family/friends or even someone less well known to me has asked for prayer or where I can see prayer is needed. (I really ought to write “Thank You” when these answers come.)
These times of prayer and reading are incredibly variable, sometimes full of surprises, other times a determined effort Sometimes I pray in tongues (especially when worshipping God), sometimes not. It’s good not to be rigid. However, I am learning steadily how to use this as a framework, not as a cage!’
‘I am not, or have not always been, ‘a good pray-er.’ Me and prayer have had fights. However, I’ve come to see that prayer is primarily God’s call to me to come near him, to enjoy him, and to trust him, not something I do to edge myself closer to God. At my worst, I have struggled to pray at all. The early years with small children was especially hard. When my Dad died, and later when Livi was very sick as a baby, I didn’t want to pray at all. This made me feel guilty and distant from God. At a women’s night in church, someone prayed for me and I had a picture of me trying to see Jesus in prison. He was behind a smoky screen and we couldn’t really connect. The next moment, Jesus got up, came around the screen to where I was sitting and said, “Madi, visiting hours are over.” He then took me by the hand and walked me out. Jesus knew that having fixed times alone for prayer was practically impossible with small kids! He was saying, ‘let’s not do that if doing that is driving you mad. Let’s do all of life together.’ Life has changed and I am now able to pray and read the Bible in the morning, but mostly I’m just doing life with Jesus. My prayer life is as scatty as I am – post-it notes on the wall, random mutterings heavenwards, a bit of this, a bit of that, and IT’S OKAY!’
‘‘I don’t think I’m very structured when it comes to my personal prayer time. I try to spend some time with God every day, even if it is only a few minutes, and usually pray as things come to mind. Having said that, I do like trying out different things to help me pray and enjoy my time with God and have found several apps useful at different times. At the start of lockdown, I discovered the Lectio365 prayer app by 24-7 Prayer which guides you through about 10 minutes of prayer based on a particular theme and bible passage for that day. I found listening to this every morning really helped me to take that bit of time to focus on God and speak with him, and I do still return to this often in my prayer times. I also occasionally use the PrayerMate app, where you can pick different topics and organisations to pray for e.g. Family, Friends, Church. I’ve found this helpful in reminding me to pray for certain things and also love that organisations will update the app with specific prayer requests to help guide your prayers for them.’
Rachel Mc Lullich
Journeying with God
Do you take a regular journey? Or walk the dog each day? Could this become a time for you to pray? Here are some ideas of how to use different landmarks on your journey.
Leaving home: As you step out of your house, why not give thanks for your home for the security you experience there and for those you live with, or for your scattered family.
The gift of a new day: Take a moment at the start of your journey to breath in the air and thank God for the gift of life today. Ask Him to show you how to use the day well and ask Him to go with you now and speak to you as you journey. You may like to imagine Jesus sitting in the passenger seat or walking along beside you.
What do you pass on your travels and how can you be prompted to pray by what you see? Here are some examples:
Your neighbours and community – If you do not know how to pray specifically for a neighbour or your community, why not ask God to bless them today
A lamppost – Are there aspects of your life that are not as they should be that you need to bring into God’s light, to know His forgiveness, why not do so when you pass a lamp post
A hospital or care home – Who do you know who is ill, frail or in need of God’s healing touch?
A petrol station or grocery shop – How would you like God to feed or fuel you today?
A rubbish bin – is there a world issue that is on your heart, where people live in or endure terrible conditions. Is God prompting you to talk to him about His creation and how He wants us to care for the world He has made?
Church – whether you pass your own church or another, can you use this as a prompt to pray for Christians you know, or your church family, or the witness of the church in the world?
Open space or a garden – When you come to one of these why not be quiet, stop talking to God and listen to see if He wants to speak to you? Maybe He will speak through the words of a song, a bible verse, a picture, or someone you meet.
Whatever you encounter as you travel or walk, why not try turning it into a theme for a prayer as you journey with God.
What will you pass on your journey? How can you turn what you see into a prayer?
If you would like to speak to someone in confidence about your own prayer life, please message firstname.lastname@example.org