These simple ways of praying will help you be in deeper communion with God on a daily basis.
“He is within me, I am within Him, I must but love him, who lets me love him, and this in all times and in all things,” wrote St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. Five paths to prayer are outlined below followed by five prayer techniques.
Pray as you are
The best way of praying is your way of praying, but you need to find it. The best technique, if there is any, is the one that helps you to better liberate the prayer that is inside you. You have a prayer that you posses and that corresponds to your temperament and your lifestyle. You don’t need to copy the way the others pray. It varies according to the day: requests or praises, supplications or the acts of grace, recited out loud or in silence. What counts is that you pray based on who you are, your age, your joys and pains, your background and your life experience. You pray based on the image of God that you have, which is destined to evolve as you grow in faith.
You introduce yourself into the presence of God, with the knowledge that He loves you as you are. Be yourself! Is it not the best gift you can offer to God? In receiving and in loving you as you are, it is God that you receive and love as your true merciful father.
Pray as you live
Prayer does not pass your life by; it is a part of your life. And as life is not perfect, prayer doesn’t have to be perfect either. If you are going to wait for perfect conditions to pray, you will never get to pray. The best prayer is the one that matters to you today, in different and at times complicated situations – failing your exam, missing your exit on the highway, losing your keys, living under pressure, going through a trial such as a sickness of a child.
You can adapt your prayer to the situations in your life, whether you are at school or at work, at home or in a hospital bed, on the road or in a train, lying down or suspended in the air, in joy or in pain, suffering insomnia or working nights, it is with you as soon as you begin to recite it. Unseen by those around you, it resumes what make up your life and unfolds before the Lord in a guise of demands and of praises.
Pray as you believe
Tell me how you pray and I will tell you how you believe! You pray as you believe. The prayer takes its root in the act of faith. It is like an arrow you send up to Heavens. The more your faith is alive, the higher it rises. But no faith is alike. If your life is centered on God, your prayer will also center on him.
So, our idea on how to pray depends on the image of God we have. If you see him as distant and menacing, your prayer will be cold and full of fear. By the way, you won’t be praying long to a God like that who is indifferent to what you are going through. This image of dispassionate God is the exact opposite of the one described in great biblical texts of Old and New Testaments, where He is represented as a bridegroom uniting to his creation. “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hos. 2 19:20).
Pray as you love
You should pray to God because He loves you and you are answering His love with your love. A prayer is an intimate, loving dialogue, between you and God. He is in your presence, when nothing can disturb you: not even your weaknesses, which become so many occasions to experience his infinite mercy. You never pray the same way, but you will always pray as you love. Praying is to be in the presence of God and to think of him with love. The blessed Charles de Foucauld often said that the more you love, the better you pray.
At one moment as you pray, you might feel that God’s love is not there, but this does not mean that God is absent. He leads us on the arid path to make us grow faster in selfless love. Therese of Lisieux is an eloquent example. Bedridden at the infirmary of Carmelite monastery, she could not manage falling asleep, so she prayed. Sister Genevieve asked her what she told Jesus. She answered: “I don’t tell him anything, I love him.”
Pray as you talk with a friend
Praying is talking with God, Christ, as a friend. For example, nothing prevents you at this time from closing your eyes and saying with your own words that you believe in Him: “Lord, I have faith in You, teach me how to pray and how to love You. You know me and You love me as I am. I offer myself and those I love to You. Send thy Spirit, so if can give life to my life. I praise You for who you are and for myself. Thank You for your infinite love.”
As you can see it is simple! Act in his presence as you would in a presence of a friend. All you need to do is talk to Him and listen. Tell Him what is going on in your life or contemplate Him in faith and silence. Is not praying listening to God who speaks to us through our own words and our silence as much as it is through his words and his silence? When we know how to listen to God, we find the vital lead that connects our life to his.
Pray with desire
Your desire is your prayer, said St. Augustine. You pray in presenting God not only who you are but also what you desire. You expose yourself to the desire of God, to his presence with all your desire. You do not recite your prayer reluctantly. Whether you silently repeat a prayer that you have learned or whether you pray spontaneously, what interests God is the desire and the love you put into it.
If you have hard time praying, if you have the impression of being alone, and if your mind is wandering all over the place, you can help yourself to concentrate with an image or an icon, a Bible verse, some music, by invoking the name of Jesus that you can repeat in your head. Did you know that you can also pray with your distractions, instead of constantly trying to get rid of them?
It is up to you to see what can help you in prayer and what it is you desire. Perhaps, you are trying to do too much, or you see God as a complicated being you need to impress, satisfy or appease? You must realize that prayer like God is so simple. It is a loving gaze, a desire to be with Him, it is peaceful silence and quiet sigh. Fundamentally, it is a rest, a grace, a gift.
Pray with your body
Your body is an ally that can express and support your prayer. Eat right and give it rest that it requires. Praying is also admitting that you need to sit. If you are comfortably seated, still, with a straight back, you will pray much better. Maintaining a good posture while you sit will help your mind to concentrate and be more attentive to the presence of God. If in great traditions, the sitting position represents our expectation, attention and meditation, the kneeling position expresses supplication, repentance and adoration. There is also the position of hands, when they are joined together or raised and a standing position. For a Christian, the standing position means that he or she has already been resurrected in Christ. It is up to you to find the posture that suits you best when you pray. And if you fall asleep as you pray don’t get upset: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed” (Ps. 126).
Pray with the Bible
A Christian never prays for the sake of praying. He or she responds to the words of God, which are read and heard, meditated and contemplated, individually or in a group. The Christian tradition speaks of four exercises that for a spiritual person represent four degrees of praying – spiritual reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation. We seek through reading and find in meditation. We knock on the door in praying and we enter in contemplation.
The method is simple. You concentrate for a few minutes, and then you read a verse or a scene from the Gospel. You slowly read the text in your heart as if you were breaking it up. It is no longer you who is doing it, it is God. He can manifest himself by a calming silence or in invading everything. This occurs rather rarely, because generally our prayer is close to the ground, but the contemplative prayer, which is a loving attention of God, is not singularly reserved to monks and nuns. God is liberal with his gifts.
Pray at liturgy
“I pray at home, I don’t need to go to church to pray,” many people think. It is true that you don’t have to be in a church to pray, because your heart is the sanctuary of prayer. Silouan the Athonite (the holy monk from Mount Athos) wrote that for those who pray, the whole world becomes a church. But the Lord has also given you an opportunity to encounter him during the liturgical celebration.
Liturgy and individual prayer do not contradict each other, but work together as a leaven in bread. Liturgy and sacraments have always been considered a convenient way to witness the presence of the resurrected Christ. Why not go and take from this source that exposes your prayer to others and provides it with words that will nourish your heart? You will go from the “I” in your individual prayer to the “we” in the Church: “Let us pray the Lord.”
Liturgy helps prayer into being. Through its rites, its words, its gestures, its chants, its music, liturgy teaches us to pray while offering it as an experience to encounter the Resurrected Christ that leads us all to the Father and gives us the Spirit.
Different forms of communal prayer could contribute to individual prayer: the celebration of the Word, the prayer of intercession, the pilgrimage, the daily benediction, the Rosary, the Liturgy of Hours, that we also call the Divine Office.
Pray in silence
It is because God is the Word that we pray in silence. The silence in question is first of all found the one deep inside us. Hence, it is not so much the absence of words, than a mystical loving presence, a communion with what there is most sacred, the most profound inside us. We can discover this silence on a subway ride, in the middle of a traffic jam, or among the noises deep inside us in a monastery at the edge of the world. Blessed Mary of the Incarnation, a Canadian mystic, used to say that “silence is a sacred tongue in which we can enjoy love.”
Silence is to prayer as water is to fish: it is its vital space. It awakens the heart and puts us face to face with a divine mystery. A silence filled with expectation, simple expectation of the Presence, the awakening to God. You can desire it, accept it and cultivate it. This silence inhabits our intimate prayer and also calls on contemplative prayer. The goal is always the same: the union with the presence of God at the heart of the soul. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:6).
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