By Jacqui Crumrine, Associate Pastor of Worship and Arts
Recently I shared in a sermon that I actually struggle with prayer. I always have. It started when I first became a Christian. I remember hearing people sharing how they would pray for hours, and when they prayed, it sounded so eloquent. I felt so insecure around these seemingly “spiritual giants”. I didn’t want to pray out loud, and just didn’t feel like I could pray in a way that God would even hear me. I spent more time comparing myself to others and feeling insecure than I did actually trying to pray, even if I was by myself. I did learn over time to stop comparing myself to others and to stand on the fact that God wants to spend time with me and hear from me.
A few decades later, I still have a hard time praying but for different reasons. Now, I just have a hard time focusing. As a mother of four, that works and goes to school, my mind is very scattered. I have the discipline of setting time aside each day and talking with God. I even go on prayer retreats! But I have random thoughts pop into my head, and I start to feel guilty that I can’t focus on God. I’ve learned some strategies over the years that have helped me. I shared in the sermon that I’ve learned to focus by remembering WHO God is, WHAT He has done for me, and WHO I am in Him. Those things bring me to a posture of prayer and help me focus. I pray a lot through worship songs, journaling, and even through painting. It’s been quite a journey to discover the way that God and I talk to each other!
After the sermon, I realized that I neglected to share the most important way that I have learned to pray and listen to God…through reading scripture. God’s word is packed full of His promises and I hear directly from Him. Reading the Word helps me listen to God. But also… the Psalms give words to my feelings and circumstances. Most often, the Word reveals what God wants to do in my heart.
There is a practice of prayer called ‘Lectio Divina’ (which means Divine Reading) …it sounds fancy, but it’s pretty simple. Here’s what I do; each day I do the devotions that Covenant Grove posts on Facebook. I start by asking God to speak to me through His word, then I read through the passage once slowly. I read it a second time and pay attention to any verses or phrases that jump out at me. I pause and reflect on why it seemed “to jump off the page” and I read it again. Sometimes I even read the whole passage again. I focus on the verse and try to see how it connects to my life, and usually I can make a pretty quick connection. I close in prayer, asking God to help me apply His word to my life and to help me remember His word throughout the day. That’s a simplified form of Lectio Divina, where you just meditate on scripture and listen to God speak through it.
Another great tool as I read scripture is journaling. I’m learning to be more consistent in journaling so that I can remember what God is saying to me, and when I look back, I can even see patterns and themes. Mostly, I see God’s faithfulness.
If you struggle with praying, know that you’re not alone. Prayer is the way that we listen to God and talk with Him. Just like any other relationship, it requires time and patience. It also requires work and commitment. The more time I spend in prayer, the more I become comfortable with they way that God communicates with me. I am learning to recognize His voice, and quiet down my busy mind. I still have to work at prayer, but what I’ve stopped doing is feeling guilty or insecure about it. I have a feeling that I’m going to be spending the rest of my life learning to quiet my mind and hear His voice. No more guilt associated with prayer (or any other spiritual discipline that you may be struggling with). This a journey, not a competition.