How Do We Pray?

Most people are unsure about how to pray. We may have been taught to pray as children, but never learned an adult way to pray. Then it seems too late to ask. We’re somehow expected to know how to pray, but don’t. Our questions about how to pray may be difficult to formulate.

Perhaps we have no idea to whom we’re praying. We’re not sure whether we believe in the God that we were raised with, or if we really believe in God at all.

Sometimes we hesitate to express our real feelings to God, wondering if maybe we should wait to pray until we have somehow been purified or improved.

The first thing about prayer is to begin, in spite of all our fears and reservations. We don’t have to wait until we are less confused in order to pray. The very concerns that seem to be preventing us from praying can become a part of our prayer. If we pray openly and honestly to God, bringing to God the real concerns and questions with which we are struggling, God will welcome and hear our prayers in whatever form we offer them. Our longing for God is already a form of prayer.

My own approach to prayer is deeply rooted in my background as an Episcopalian and in the writings of the Christian tradition. However, I am also influenced by prayer and meditation approaches from Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Taoism. In the Prayer FAQs section, I will address questions about silent forms of prayer and meditation and also approaches to prayer in which God is addressed personally.

Here are some resources for exploring how to pray:

• some frequently asked questions about prayer with responses;

• some suggestions about how to use the psalms in prayer;

• a reading list of books about prayer;

• some suggestions about how to live in a prayerful, mindful way;

• a brief introduction to the welcoming prayer, a method that can be used at times when we are overwhelmed by emotion and can’t get centered or at any time in our daily lives when we are troubled by our feelings.