How to Pray, After It's Been a Long Time
In the days following a season of feasting, such as Christmas, we often find ourselves in a bit of a spiritual lag – the more intense times of prayer and preparation are over, having given way to celebrations and the joyful festivities.
Perhaps you are now feeling the pull to rekindle your prayer life. Or, and perhaps a bit more commonly, you are noticing, now that the external joys of the Christmas Season are passing away, that you have an emptiness in your heart, a lack of joy where you wish there were joy, a lack of peace where you wish there were peace.
Perhaps, as a result of this Season celebrating God coming near to you, you have come to realize that God feels farther away from you than you would prefer, or perhaps so far away that you are not sure of the remedy.
You wish that you could speak to God in a manner that showed you were His friend, that He was your friend, that you were truly His follower, His disciple, that He dwelled within you. Yet, when you think of praying, or when you stop and try to pray, you do not know where to begin, and you say, “I feel like I don’t know how to pray.”
This will happen if we let our prayer life dwindle. Things will grow cold.
Set aside about five minutes. It’s there. Really – just be a little more productive, a little more clever, and five minute will be there. If you are married, ask for some help, so you can step away for five minutes.
You may be asking, “well, I am not sure what I should say.”
Sometimes, when we are restarting praying, or praying with a hope that a new depth will be found, we don’t know what to do. Here are a few suggestions
First, don’t say anything rote, anything merely memorized until you’ve run out of things to say. What I mean is: you desire a sincere and friendly conversation with God. Well, do that! You know all the prayers well, and they are good, but, if you are trying to spark a new depth to your prayer life, then that means you sense a distance with God. So, get reconnected. Tell Him everything about your life – your job, your kids, your dreams, your friends, your fears, your weaknesses, your sadness, your desire for peace – whatever is on your mind. Be honest, and trust that He is listening and cares for you.
Second, don’t pray as if you are simply exchanging tired pleasantries with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. What I mean is: if you have a friend that you have not seen in a long time, and whom you wished was more present in your life, when you finally reconnect with that person, you aren’t going to simply speak with polite pleasantries like, How are you?, Going well?, Doing ok?, Nice weather today, Can you believe how cold it’s been? Instead, you will want to hear everything about them that you’ve missed since you saw them last, and to tell them everything you’ve been doing as well. To reconnect, you have to get them up to speed on who you are, things you’ve done, interests you’ve accumulated.
So, when you pray, tell Our Lord:
Forgive my absence, Lord, I am much distracted by the demands on me these days. I have missed our time together and have really longed to speak with You. I have noticed Your absence. Please help me to stay closer to You – I lack peace, my job frustrates me, I feel tired. But, You, Lord, You are truly my best Friend – though I don’t treat You that way. Forgive me, Lord, for being a delinquent disciple. Forgive me for my sins and weaknesses, for putting other things ahead of You, finding time for other things and not for you.
When you pray, pray like a child to his Father, like a friend to his Friend. Know that God desires nothing more than to sit next to you and hear you speak to Him. As much as it delights you to speak to Him, it delights Him more to hear your voice. Know this, and then stay with Him.