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The Bible offers countless examples of God’s people crying out in joy, sorrow, gratitude, and suffering. These instances of God listening to the prayers of faithful people remind us that we don’t have to be anyone other than who we are in our most vulnerable moments to approach God. God is always listening. There is no right or wrong way to start the conversation. God just wants to hear from us exactly as we are in whatever season we find ourselves. University chaplain Sara Barton and assistant chaplain Lauren Begert (MA ’15) share four prayer practices to inspire the community to connect more deeply with the active life of God whether at the beginning of our prayer life or seeking new methods of praying.
Find more practices and resources to help guide you on your faith journey on the Practicing Faith website.
When you want to give thanks or are in need of help
The two most common prayers found throughout the Bible are “help” and “thank you.” In a simple prayer, you can talk with God about what you need help with or what you are grateful for.
- “God, please help me. Be with me in this inexplicable pain and loneliness. You say you are with me, but you feel so far away. Be near me, Lord.”
- “God, it is difficult to know what to do in the face of injustice and oppression. Teach me, Lord, how to be your ambassador of peace and your servant of justice.”
- “God, you are so kind and faithful! Thank you for your faithful provision in the health and life of my family and friends. I am in awe of your goodness and your mercy. Thank you, God.”
When you need God to intervene
Breath prayer is an ancient prayer practice dating back to at least the sixth century. It’s a good example of “praying without ceasing,” as the apostle Paul encouraged us to do, and it has the potential to become as natural as breathing. It’s malleable, as the words of the prayer can be easily adjusted to the prayer of your heart. You may choose to say the prayer aloud or silently, and it can be practiced when you are quiet and still, or even while you are doing other things.
- Breathe in and say, “Oh Lord, my God.”
- Breathe out and say, “I need you. Make a way.”
When you are in need of discernment
Examen prayer helps us identify patterns and rhythms in our life and makes us more aware of God’s presence with us throughout each day.
STEP 1: Create space to pay attention to your soul
- Pray: “God, I want to see my life through your eyes. I pray for the grace to see and to understand. Amen.”
STEP 2: Review your day with God
- Review the events and activities in which you participated and people you saw. Pay special attention to any emotions or experiences that brought joy, fear, shame, sorrow, or elation. Reflect on a time in the day when your feelings were especially intense. Ask the Holy Spirit, “What do my strong feelings mean?”
- Other questions you might want to ask are: “Where did I miss the mark? What do I need to confess? What bothered me? Where have I been hurt?”
STEP 3: Rest and recommit yourself to God’s will
- Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you look ahead to the next day.
- Record these and pray through them.
- Ask God,“What’s one thing I should do in the day ahead?” Write your reflections down or simply make a mental note.
- As you close this last step, take a few moments to rest in God’s grace for you.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
When you need to reconcile
“Lord, I confess that I _____. When I _____, I know it grieved the Spirit and that it was not reflective of your desire for my life. I repent of this sin and ask for your forgiveness. In light of my heart of repentance, I ask you, God, for your guidance in how I can respond differently next time. Lord, please give me creative eyes to reimagine a new way. Thank you, Lord, that you are a kind and forgiving God. Help me to accept your forgiveness for the sins I have confessed. Thank you for the blood of Jesus, which atones for the sins of humanity. May I reject the shame that may desire to follow me as I commit to continuing to walk in your light.”