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When It Comes to Prayer... Failure Is Not an Option - Guideposts
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When It Comes to Prayer… Failure Is Not an Option

It’s the only human endeavor I can think of where trying is doing.

Rick Hamlin, executive editor of Guideposts magazine.
Credit: Julie Brown Harwood
Prayer is a powerful force for good. At Guideposts, we believe in the strength of prayer to bring comfort, hope, and healing. Your generous donation today will help us continue to share the power of prayer with those in need. Together, through prayer and support, we can make a difference.

To try to pray is to pray.

You can’t fail at it. Nobody can. The Bible tells us that in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). All you need do in prayer is to access that intimacy. Open your heart, open your mouth, say something, say nothing. Shout if you must. Raise your hands, clasp them in your lap. 

Sing if you please, or if you can’t sing just “make a joyful noise unto God” (Psalm 66:1). You may start with a “Dear Lord,” you can end with an “Amen.” You can close your eyes, get on your knees, you can use whatever language you like or no language at all. You can pray when you’re walking, running, driving the car to work, setting the table for dinner, lying in bed before you turn the light out.

To try it is to do it. It’s the only human endeavor I can think of where trying is doing. “The Lord accepts my prayer” the Psalmist assures us (Psalm 6:9). Reaching out is holding on. Joining in is letting go. Prayer is as natural as breathing. It’s comforting. It’s a solace. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Those three things go together: hope, patience, prayer.

If you’re like me and think every minute of your day has to be accounted for, you really do need prayer. You’ll run out of steam without it. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). How wonderful that our hearts can be “still” even when the world around us isn’t!

You can pray in private. You can do it with a friend at your kitchen table or in a church pew or with your family at dinner. You can do it in a windowless basement room with a twelve-step group or out under the stars on a summer night. You will wonder if you’re doing it right. You will want a little more guidance and you’ll want to hear from others who take it seriously, learning from their example. Even the finest cooks look for new recipes in a new cookbook. But the masters will affirm that prayer is a school for amateurs because doing it from the heart is all that matters. That’s the only expertise. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

Are there things that can help you pray? Sure. I’ve found these work for me:

  • Scripture, of course, especially the psalms.  It’s the prayer book of the Bible. There’s not an emotion that will overwhelm you that is not mirrored in the book of Psalms.
  • A faith community. Other believers will keep you on your toes, challenge you. Sunday is your day to get recharged. Find opportunities throughout the week to connect with others focused on living a Godly life — a Bible study, a breakfast prayer group, Facebook friends.
  • Inspired Writers. C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Frederick Buechner  and a host of others will help you look at prayer in fresh and meaningful ways.

As I say, we’re all amateurs at prayer. You can practice a prayer in your head, like a conversation you expect to have with your boss. You want to get the words right. You want to make sure you’re understood. But don’t forget that every thought you’ve phrased and re-phrased in your mind has been heard and understood better than you would have expressed it. “Search me, O God, and know my heart,” the psalmist says. “Try me and know my ways” (Psalm 139:23).   

Prayer—it’s as easy as it is important. Let us pray!

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