A few years ago, I was a rather unenthusiastic Christian who suddenly found herself a freshman at a Catholic university filled with people openly bursting with love for God. I quickly began to feel overwhelmed by the faith life on campus, as I think many people would, surrounded by so many people of faith. It made me begin to wonder about my own.I found that I was keeping God on a shelf, almost like a bottle of ibuprofen, and I'd whip out a quick prayer, pop that heavenly pill, and expect results in less than 30 minutes. Then I'd put Him back on the shelf and forget about my faith until I needed something again. Something about this seemed incomplete to me and at least a little insincere. It was then that I remembered this book I read when I was 11 or 12, called Sophie's Heart. It was about a Czechoslovakian woman who immigrated to the U.S. and was employed as a nanny/housekeeper by a family with a widowed father. What struck me about the book was how much the main character talked to God. Out loud or internally, it was on every page, in every minute moment of her life, and I just remember thinking, ‘this is way too much. This author is so unrealistic.’ I mean, the woman falls down rollerblading, and she's having an internal monologue to God about her excitement about rollerblading for the first time. And then, I thought, ‘well, why can't this be realistic? Why does it seem strange to me? I consider myself a woman of faith as well. What am I missing?'I realized that she was living her life as prayer. But, not prayer in the way I think we often see it: lofty and organized, maybe a chore or requirement. I know I saw it as a quick fix for a long time and thought I didn't need God’s help in any other aspects of my life. But this way of prayer always felt hollow, like I wasn't quite reaching God.Over the past few years, my understanding of prayer has changed. I've found new and unexpected ways of praying. The true challenge lies in intending these everyday ‘normal’ moments as prayers.
Try these 5 new ways to pray:
1. Walk and talk
I discovered this on one of my seemingly endless walks to work. I had forgotten my headphones that day and I felt the spontaneous need to talk: about my day, a wacky play I'd read for my scriptwriting course, my worry about a friend from home, commenting on how beautiful I found the smell of the freshly cut grass, remembering a joke about what you call a laughing piano. And it turned into a conversation with God. It wasn't anything formal, it was just as though my best friend had been walking along with me, and I was filling them in on my day. And yet, it was the most powerful moment of prayer I'd ever had. I let God into my life completely; I wasn't expecting anything from Him. It was a simple, powerful feeling of wanting to be with Him…and it was joyous.
2. Pray without words
Smile. Phyllis Diller says, “a smile is a little curve that straightens everything out.” It doesn't have to be always, but imagine the bit of joy you feel in sharing a smile with a loved one or in receiving a smile after a hard day. You can share that joy further, even with strangers; it's a little curve that is infectious and often makes people feel seen and cared about.
Change your mind about someone or something. Take the time to understand fully those with whom we disagree or who've done us wrong. See them as God does. If we take a step toward them with love, it's a way of prayer which I believe acknowledges our effort to be like Christ.
Model a merciful, forgiving attitude toward people we encounter.
Service. Recognizing a need in others and working to fill it, however we can, is another opportunity for us to make an effort to be like Christ — a teacher, healer, and savior who is always helping us
Acknowledge that you've arrived safely at your destination. In your heart (or out loud, if you wish), thank God for it.
3. Love yourself
See yourself the way God sees you. God made every single one of us with love, and we are constantly looking at ourselves with anything but love. I know I wake up many days and look in the mirror with only criticism. And sometimes the competitive atmosphere at my college and in the world makes us feel lesser in comparison. But we are most definitely not in the eyes of our God. So, maybe in order to do this, we look for the gifts God has given us (gifts in science or piano or the ability to listen and empathize, etc.), and we cultivate those. That's a form of prayer — rejoicing in who God made you, loving and being grateful for what He has given you.
Keep a gratitude journal: at the end of each day, write 3 good things about your day, no matter how small or life-changing. You'll begin to notice blessings you might not have been aware of before.You can even journal things you are struggling with and special intentions for your friends and family. Write it down. Make it a tangible prayer you can return to easily.
5. Find a moment of peace in your day
Enjoy the silence, and find God in it. Sometimes the best way to see Him is to block out all other things.
Ultimately, how much stronger will our small, everyday moments be if we see them as prayer?If we see these moments that we typically just “do” as moments of prayer instead, moments where we're with God, where we're actually praising Him, then we'll come to know Him even more and ultimately live a richer life. We could all benefit from spending more time with God. Certainly, there are endless other ways we can pray and praise, but taking these five everyday opportunities to pray can be stepping stones to bringing us closer to Him.