Many people think there is only one mode of prayer: seated (or kneeling), alone, in silence, hands together, eyes closed, in focused communication with God. This is a valuable mode of prayer, and we should certainly not give up seeking it. We should continue to ask God to help us meet with Him in focused, wholly-connected prayers like these.
However, this is only one mode of prayer. There are multiple different modes of prayer, and they can all be employed regularly in our lives to create a more diverse and complete communication connection with God.
Think of any other close personal relationship you have. For instance, my best friend and I do not just sit and talk to each other alone all the time. We do that sometimes, but we also spend time with each other in a variety of other ways, the combination of which creates a richness and a depth in our friendship that would not be replicable by only engaging in just one form of communication together:
- We run errands together,
- we go play catch in the park,
- we chat online or text each other on the phone.
Sometimes we talk about things intentionally – things we planned ahead of time to talk about with each other. Many times, though, we just talk about whatever is on our minds or whatever is going on in our lives at that moment.
This is a pattern and an example for what our communication relationship with God can be like: varied, rich, diverse, deep, whole. Open and real. Not forced, but intentional. Both planned and spontaneous.
Along with the “sit alone in silence” mode of prayer discussed above, there are many others, and we should embrace them all as a regular part of a holistic prayer-life:
Prayer-as-you-go. As you work, as you drive, as you wait in line, as you shower, as you are falling asleep. Where we feel our feelings toward God and we think our thoughts toward God, just as they are and however they come. This is how true friends most often talk to each other.
These prayers are unstructured, unfocused, distraction-filled prayers. They are just a constant, free-flowing conversation with God about anything and everything that flows in and out of your heart and brain.
Brother Lawrence was an uneducated monk in the 17th century. At the Parisian monastery where he lived, he spent many hours a day in the kitchen preparing food and cleaning dishes, or else in the workshop cobbling the other monks’ shoes. Lawrence became renowned for his ability to bring God into the boring and mundane tasks of the everyday, and he had a devotional life that was just as rich and full as any of the other monks who spent the majority of their time in the studies and sanctuaries. Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God, explains his daily life of prayer-as-you-go. Lawrence encountered God as much through dishes and shoes as he did through prayer books and liturgy.
Engage in prayer-as-you-go throughout your day, and welcome the distracting-thoughts that will inevitably come. In fact, you can even turn those distractions into prayers to God as well!
Breath-prayers. These are also known as “three-word prayers”. The idea of these prayers is that they are short. Very short. Short enough to be said and repeated with each breath. Throughout the history of Christianity, prayer and breathing have been very closely related. Try limiting your prayers to only three words each. It is amazing how powerful words can be – and how much they can communicate – when they are in limited supply:
- “Christ, have mercy.”
- “Emmanuel, comfort Mom.”
- “I need You.”
- “Be my vision.”
- “Multiply this food.”
- “End this scourge.”
- “I trust You.”
- “Jireh, please provide.”
- “Change me.”
- “Be my everything.”
- “Hold me, Jesus.”
- “Increase my faith.”
- “Help my unbelief.”
- “Spirit, guide me.”
- “Sprit, fill me.”
- “I surrender all…”
Breath-prayers also make great prayers for worship. Some of the most worshipful moments in my life have come when I least I expected them to, and when my response was spontaneous, awe-filled worship in breath-prayer form:
- upon seeing a rainbow: “Whoa – how beautiful!”
- upon seeing a sunset: “Wow, God – WOW!”
- upon hearing my daughter laugh: “Thank You, Jesus…”
- upon hearing good news: “Praise You, God!”
List prayers. These are something I turn to often when I cannot fall asleep, or I am waiting in line, or I want to talk with God but I don’t know what to say. I start making lists together with Him:
- list what you are thankful for
- list what you are looking forward to
- list ways He helped you recently
- list people you are thankful for
- list ways you would like God to help you grow
- list people you want God to help or bless
- list things you would like to do someday
What different modes of prayer do you engage in? In what ways is your communication connection with God made most alive and consistent? Please share your ideas here in the comments section, and let’s encourage each other with a variety of ways to make our prayer-lives healthy and whole.