Heartfelt Prayer

The way we'd like our prayer to be

That's a good title, isn't it? We know that prayer should come from the heart. But how well do we know our heart? Be honest. We live in a world that expects us to project an image - and, for many people, their image comes out of the wardrobe. We spend so much of our life trying to fulfil a role that we easily lose sight of who we really are. Do you want to pray from your heart? You'd best start by discovering what's in your heart.

Do you love prayer? Or is it an activity that feels uncomfortable? If you're a lover of prayer it's a fair guess that the style of prayer you adopt is a good match to your personality. It may be that your prayer life is driven by a well developed spirituality, but personality is the key factor. Every Christian knows that prayer is important, but many find it slightly awkward. Awkwardness comes from trying to behave in a manner that's unnatural to you. It may be that the mental image you have about how prayer should be done looks good - but doesn't really work in your life.

What works is what works! When you pray in keeping with your personality it come naturally to you. It feels right. So, what comes naturally to you? What puts light into your eyes and a spring into your step? It can be more difficult to know ourselves than to know God. We spend our lives from birth to early adulthood learning to fit in with the cultural norms of our society - to be acceptable - to 'fit in'. We do that partly by hiding parts of our personality, and we do it so effectively that we hide them from ourselves. We lose touch with who we really are.

Who are you? Once you were a child with dreams about a future - maybe a future that, for all sorts of reasons, hasn't happened - or not yet anyway. From time-to-time hints of your dreams emerge in stories that attract you, adventures or romances that you experience second-hand in fiction or in other people's biographies. Those dreams are clues to your personality. Why do other people live such exciting lives, but you never do? Were your dreams pointless fantasies? Or have you been hiding your true self?

It's not just an issue of differing personalities, but of different moods and events. If we're adrift in a rowing boat going through a storm it's not the time for well-formed, elaborate prayers! When we discover a situation that appals us, words may fail us completely. But God accepts cries of anger or desperation; he understands wordless yearnings; tears touch his heart at least as much as they touch ours; and he enjoys the shout of glee. Prayer is much wider, deeper, and more varied than we may imagine.

There's no reason ever to feel awkward about prayer. Whatever our personality, there's a form of prayer that will feel right. God knows who we are and what we're like, and he accepts us as we are. Whatever our mood, there's a place for prayer. Many of the Psalms are cries of distress, anxiety, anger, and complaint. We can't shock God. We can't impress him with pious words and skilful turns of phrase. What he wants to hear from us is heartfelt Prayer.

When we pray from the heart, it may be in sorrow or in joy, it may express grief or gratitude, it may be exultant or anxious, we may sing and shout, or we may pause in silence and stillness. Whatever the outward form of our prayer, the beauty is the inward connection - the fact that our innermost being is in touch with God. Our prayers may not always feel like that but, once we've experienced that connection, we'll return again and again

© Derrick Phillips - 2021

front cover of the book 'Still Digging'
Still Digging" is a book about prayer, though the title doesn't make it obvious! But the Subtitle makes matters clearer - "Scratching the surface and plumbing the depths of prayer". So, you see, it's pretty wide ranging. It deals with basic questions like "Do I have to pray?", and "How can prayer fit into my busy life?" It also opens the door on 'deeper' kinds of prayer. As the above article explains, we don't all pray alike and nor should we. We need to pray in ways that suit our personality, our mood, and the circumstances of the moment. To cover that broad a range, this book has 80 chapters, though the average chapter length is only 2-3 pages - just enough to squeeze into a coffee break, or to be part of personal devotions. However, this is not a devotional book as such. It's not a prayer book, but a practical guide to ways of praying - potentially your ways of praying. To quote from Chapter 38: "Prayer is for all, but not all types of prayer are for everyone."