If someone were to ask you to candidly describe your prayer life, what might you say?
If you’re anything like me, you’d blurt out a wish list of “I shoulds” — I should pray more consistently. I should get up earlier to pray. I should keep a detailed prayer journal.
But if none of those ways to pray feels natural for you, then what?
Some of you have discovered the vital connection between every weekly topic we’ve covered so far this year: budgeting time, creating margins for the new, rediscovering purpose, relinquishing heartache.
It’s only when we surrender our fears and tears to the One who knows us best and loves us most that we can truly experience peace and find the path forward. But what do you do when prayer seems more like a monologue than a dialogue? When you’ve asked God for healing, and it fails to happen? When you beg him to fix the fissures in your family and they continue to deepen?
Maybe you remember your first faltering attempts at prayer as a child. As a toddler growing up on an Illinois farm, I heard about the One whose name – God, Lord, Jehovah –my mom and dad used regularly before meals, in worried conversations about failing crops, in grateful ones after a good harvest.
I was taught about Jesus in Sunday school, but he seemed as one-dimensional as the flannelgraph figures my teacher used to teach us stories about Noah in his ark or Daniel in the lions’ den. What connection did they have with me?
I memorized a couple little poems and repeated them for years, like this singsong mealtime prayer:
“God is great, God is good,
Let us thank Him for our food.
By His hand we all are fed,
Give us Lord our daily bread.”
And this one for bedtime (which now seems a bit macabre, but hey, what did I know?)
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
“Bless Mommy and Daddy and Cindy and Danny and Bootsie…”
… and I would go on to bless each of our dozens of farm cats by name. My poor parents.
Sound familiar? My prayers were juvenile and routine, an exercise in childish memorization.
And honestly, friends? Sometimes I feel I haven’t changed all that much.
But here’s the thing that I have learned as a grownup: The power in prayer does not reside in us or in the quantity of the words we speak, but in the One who hears us.
So what if we’re incoherent and inarticulate at times of great stress? What does it matter if our prayers are sometimes little more than Thank you. Love you. Help me!
Thankfully, God has already provided a way for us to communicate with Him – the Scriptures. Through his Word he speaks to us, and in his Word we’re given language to speak to him. Jesus’ own prayer book, the Psalms, is available to us.
“Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3
Does this mean we’re all to pray alike, following a particular method or pattern? Why should that be when God created us with different personality types and spiritual gifts?
I’ve been reading a new book designed to help Christ followers discover the prayer style that’s natural for each of us: Praying Personalities, by Janet Holm McHenry, the author of numerous books on prayer including the best-selling classic PrayerWalk.
In this enriching new resource, Janet offers personality profiles of biblical characters and their own personal prayer practices.
“Some argued with God, some complained, some spent time in worship, and some simply listened and obeyed God’s instructions without a word in response…I came to understand there is not one prayer practice that is better than another.”
If you’d like to narrow down the style that will most naturally fit into how you process a prayer life, here’s a fun, simple quiz Janet created that will help you do just that. You can take the free Praying Personalities quiz online using this link - https://prayingpersonalities.com/ or the following QR code.
But before you do, I have a copy to give away! Please leave a comment after the post and be sure to include the word PRAYER. A winner's name will be drawn by Saturday, Feb. 17, and I'll pop it into the mail before we head overseas.
And speaking of prayer? You’re in mine this week, friend.
With so much love,
"You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for himself. The Lord will answer when I call to him… In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe." Psalm 4: 3, 8
Maggie Wallem Rowe is a speaker, dramatist, and writer who prays from Peace Ridge, her home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The author of two books, Maggie's prayer life has matured over the years, but she still likes to pray blessing over everyone she knows, including cats.