Are there different ways to pray?
At a recent Wednesday night women’s gathering at my church, a group of us were talking about prayer. Before our session began, we wrote our prayer requests on small pieces of paper and placed them in decorated containers that became the centerpiece of our table. At the end of the evening, we ended our night by lifting our hands over our “prayer centerpiece” and asking God to accept our intentions and bless them.
We had started the evening with a prayer that many of us had memorized and we ended the evening with 15 minutes of silent prayer amid candlelight — each of us individually talking to God in our hearts. This made me think about the different ways we communicate with Our Creator. Whether it be memorized prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, a quick acknowledgement before meals, or impromptu prayers for others, there are many different ways to pray to God.
When we pray, or talk to God, we are nurturing our relationship with him. This is no different than talking to a dear friend and sharing our innermost thoughts, our fears, our accomplishments or our desires. We are building relationship with the One who created us. We are making ourselves known and letting God into the private parts of our heart and soul.
Why does it matter what type of prayer we use as long as we pray? Relationship is a two-way street. We cannot always be the ones doing all of the talking. Like any good friendship, there must be some listening. If I never quit talking, I can’t hear what my friend wants to share with me. This holds true with God. I will sometimes talk and I will sometimes listen! My form of communication will not always be the same.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church groups prayer into five different forms and I’ve given an example of each:
- Blessing and adoration, i.e., Lord, I love you and adore you
- Prayer of petition, i.e., Lord, help me and keep me safe
- Prayer of intercession, i.e., Lord, heal my friend of her illness
- Prayer of thanksgiving, i.e., Lord, I give thanks in all circumstances of my life
- Prayer of praise, i.e., Lord, I exult you and sincerely know you’re my Father
There are many examples of prayer in the Bible. One of my favorite examples of differing styles of prayer is demonstrated through Moses. Moses prays to God at the burning bush, “Here I am” (adoration). Moses prays to God to intercede for Miriam, “Please, heal her” (intercession). Moses argues in prayer! He says to God, “Now, if I have found favor with you, please let me know your ways …” (petition).
Jesus too shows us many types of prayer during his life on earth. He prays for people (intercession), with people (petition) and in thanksgiving while He was eating with the apostles. Many times we see him go away for longer periods of time to pray before he has to make big decisions. In the book of Luke (6:12) Jesus spent the night in prayer before he chose his disciples.
In our relationship with Christ, we will encounter many different types of prayer depending on the situation. Knowing this can help us develop a deeper relationship with him. If we realize that sometimes we will talk, sometimes we will listen, sometimes we will plead and sometimes we might even be angry, then we can be free to grow in our prayer life. It’s all communication and it’s all part of our relationship with God.