BY MICHELLE WILLIAMS, GRACE ATTENDER
A blank slate is a good thing, right? When people use that phrase, it often hints at the feeling of having a fresh start. This new opportunity will afford the potential for perfection, unaffected by the missteps of the past. This is where I’m at with building a meaningful daily prayer routine into my life.
For me, it feels a little like having a clean canvas front and center, picking up a paint brush, and then remembering that I’ve never taken a single art class and I’m utterly unexperienced. I’m unsure of where to start, have no idea what I’m even trying to paint, and I start to feel overwhelmed to the point of wanting to scrap my dream of creating a beautiful work of art. “You’re going to make a mess of that perfect canvas,” says the deceptive voice in my head.
Much to the chagrin of that deceptive voice, I’m steeped in a community of prayer at Grace Church. God has infused my life with supportive people I can learn from, and I won’t give up on finding the prayer routine that finally sticks for me.
My ambitions were reignited this week after listening to the weekly Robcast. Rob Bell invited his wife, Kristen, to talk about what she does with her anxiety. In a fascinating conversation, she shared how her research has led her to studies that scientifically prove the physiological benefits of the practice of prayer. If this isn’t typically what you “geek out” on, they’re saying that prayer is pretty much a surefire method to put your body into the parasympathetic state that allows it to rest, digest and heal. It’s a good thing!
In their discussion, the Bells also touched on the centuries-old Catholic tradition of praying the rosary, which is a routine practice involving repetitive prayer and the tactile element of holding the rosary beads. This is what sparked the idea for my new prayer routine.
My New Prayer Routine
The two elements I’ve found myself drawn to are the repetitive prayer and the tactile aspect of the practice. I immediately thought of the little stone cross that Melody Boyer gave as a gift to my Grace Church Real Moms class once when she spoke to us—it serves as the perfect tangible piece for my new routine. The idea of repetitive prayers seems like a good place for me personally to start, because freeform praying just hasn’t been sticking well in my life.
To structure my repetitive prayers, I borrowed from the TSP Prayer method, a.k.a. “teaspoon prayers.” TSP stands for thanks, sorry and please. My adaptation is PAR—standing for praise, aspiration, and reliance. I have written out several one-line prayers in each category that I can return to each day while holding my cross. For anyone who might be looking for a similar beginner’s routine for prayer, I’ll elaborate on each piece of the PAR method.
Praise is essentially giving God the credit for the joy in our lives. I’ve written down several praises for the ways he shows up in my life, whether it be inspirations, challenges, and grace. “Thank you for ____” is a great way to get started in this category.
In business, I was taught never to present a problem without at least one suggestion for a solution. I’ve learned about myself that I do tend to pray confessional prayers as soon as I feel convicted of straying from his call. So, I wanted my everyday routine to be focused on prayers for the ways I aspire to seek God daily, especially the ways in which I recognize that I want or need to adjust my posture.
I personally have a difficult time asking God for anything, but I’m fully aware that I need to lean into His strength every day. Fears, anxieties, shames and the like fit well here—we all need God’s wisdom and strength to navigate these waters. We also need Him to lead us in doing His will. My overall theme for reliance is asking God for His guidance.
I’m already finding that having my little cross for this prayer routine is proving useful—not only to help me to establish a feeling of connection, but also as a simple reminder. I keep the cross on my nightstand so that it’s right there as soon as I wake up. I can either grab it and start the day with my new prayer routine before even getting out of bed, or I can slip it into my pocket to take with me as I make my morning coffee or tea. I can use my list of praises, aspirations, and reliances as a guide, and pause to ruminate on whatever stands out as and area for a little extra meditation. Although I’m only a few days into this, I can tell it’s helping me to become more intentional in my prayer life. My hope in sharing this new routine is that it may help others who want to try something similar.
More Resources for Prayer
We have heard several wonderful sermons on prayer, and one that sticks out in my mind is Amy Christie’s Re-Learn How to Pray from the Drift series. She offers a whole list of great ways to dive into prayer in that sermon, so it’s a great place to start.
You may even have something around your home that will perfectly serve this purpose. The creative possibilities are really endless here—I’d love to hear ideas and suggestions in the comments!