Back in 2010, thousands of women around the world dragged their reluctant husbands and boyfriends off to see a movie. It starred Julia Roberts and was called “Eat, Pray, Love”. Maybe you heard of it. It was based on the best selling memoirs of Elizabeth Gilbert, who in 2006, made a life changing decision. She was in her early 30’s and her marriage was falling apart. She felt miserable, with a pain in her heart that would not go away. I never saw the movie and haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure what it was like. But I do want to quote a small part of her book ..
“My husband was sleeping in the other room, in our bed. I was hiding in the bathroom for something like the 47th consecutive night, and—just as during all those nights before—I was sobbing. Sobbing so hard, in fact, that a great lake of tears was spreading before me on the bathroom tiles, a veritable Lake Inferior (if you will), of my shame and fear and confusion and grief.
This part of my story is not a happy one, I know. But I share it here because something was about to occur on that bathroom floor that would change forever the progression of my life— almost like one of those crazy astronomical super-events when a planet flips over in outer space for no reason whatsoever, and its molten core shifts, relocating its poles and altering its shape radically, such that the whole mass of the planet suddenly becomes oblong instead of spherical. Something like that. What happened is that I started to pray. “[Eat ,Pray, Love, 11-12]
Elizabeth Gilbert recognised that God had spoken to her. Is that so unusual? She said “hi God. I have never done this before. Please just tell me what to do”. And she heard her own voice say “go back to bed”. It sounded right and real to her – a divine spark, God in the flesh, talking in her own voice. And why not? Who can say that was not genuine? God may do that so we can actually recognise what He is saying. After all, He can do whatever He likes to get our attention.
Prayer can change your life. Prayer can save your life. Elizabeth Gilbert learned that lesson crumpled on her bathroom floor. We know it, too, don’t we?
So why don’t we pray more? Why does it tend to be a last resort, rather than the first thing we do?? Why would many of us rather read a book on prayer than actually pray? We have our reasons. Many of them deep and complicated, I’m sure. But some of them aren’t, and I want to offer some suggestions for overcoming the obstacles to prayer. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Prayer is a life saver.
A lot of people don’t pray more because they don’t know much about it. If you’re one of them, you need to learn to pray in ways that work for you, helping you to connect with God at a deep level.
Prayer is simply talking to God and listening in response. If you can talk to a friend, you can pray. The only mistake we can make in prayer is not praying. Don’t worry about how you are saying things or even what you are saying, just start. When Elizabeth Gilbert started to pray it wasn’t exactly the Book of Common Prayer that came out.:
“What I said to God through my gasping sobs was something like this: ‘Hello, God. How are you? I’m Liz. It’s nice to meet you.’ That’s right—I was speaking to the creator of the universe as though we’d just been introduced at a cocktail party….” [Eat, Pray, Love, 15]
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Once the conversation gets going, you can change to other prayer styles if you’d like. Some people find formal prayers – like the Lord’s Prayer – helpful. When you don’t know what else to say, because it hurts too much or words simply fail, that’s the one you can fall back on like a safety net. God takes those words, like the loaves and fishes, and turns them into whatever they need to be become. Books of prayers –including the Psalms – have expressed the hopes of generations.
Some people find listening, even listening to their own breathing, to be calming, settling, and slowing; their mind clears enough so that they can “hear” or “feel” God speaking to them through the clutter of their thoughts. Some people find singing their prayers to be helpful . If singing is one way your heart expresses itself, get yourself a hymnal to use at home and pray like you’re a soloist in the choir. Conversational prayers, formal prayers, silent prayers, sung prayers – God hears every one of them. If you’re not praying as much as you want to, you might want to try a different way of praying.