Talking with God

Beth Barnett finds ways to get started in prayer – with no fancy bits!

This is my friend Craig. He’s eating a fried spider from a Cambodian street market. He’s the kind of guy who will give anything a go.Craig

Good luck to him, I say, but eating fried spiders isn't for me. Eating fried spiders isn’t for everyone.

There are lots of things that aren’t for everyone – skydiving, belly-dancing, orange lipstick, mixed-company saunas. Not for me; not for everyone.

But there are just a few things that are for everyone – basic common human needs:

  • air – air is for everyone;
  • water; and
  • sleep.

You can experiment with fancier versions of these things – add some perfume to your air; enrich your water with a zing of lemon; and find yourself some super-soft pillows for your sleep – but at their most basic, they are for everyone.

So  I want to add one more thing to the list: prayer.

  • Prayer is also for everyone.
  • Prayer is how we describe the simple idea of connecting with God – perhaps with words, or our thoughts, or even just our feelings.
  • Prayer is as natural and easy as breathing in and out, or taking a sip of water, or giving way to exhaustion and falling asleep.

Perhaps you don’t think you’ve ever prayed – but maybe you’ve breathed a simple ‘Wow!!!’ at the wonder of the natural world, or felt the gut-wrenching groan of ‘Oh, God – no!’ at bad news, or whispered a desperate ‘Help!’ when things seemed beyond you. All of these expressions can be prayers, and the God who cares deeply for all of the cosmos, including your small patch of it, is tuned in.

God welcome our prayers – however basic they are. And whatever age we are.

The Bible talks about the prayers of babies – even those in the womb! Other parts of the Bible speak of sighs and groans and tears as prayers that God receives. This reminds us that even if we can’t put a sentence together, God is still open to whatever feelings we want to express, however we want to express them.

Of course, there can be beautifully worded prayers of poetry and long prayers in which we pour out our hearts or just ramble on to God.

When we think about prayer in this way – a natural part of living with an awareness of God in our midst – it’s easy to see how our children can be really great prayer-makers. As they respond naturally to the world around them and to all that happens, we can reassure them that God is leaning in with interest.

If you’ve never prayed before, maybe your children can help you start!

One of the easiest ways to start to pray is to realise that the things we say in everyday life are heard by God – and recognise that they are already prayers.

Beth is currently undertaking doctoral studies in the area of New Testament, examining the constructs of maturity in the letters of Paul. She has held pastoral roles in Baptist and Anglican churches and been a long-term volunteer in the missions of Scripture Union, for whom she is a freelance resource writer and trainer. She teaches units in Children and Families Ministry and Biblical Studies at Stirling College, as well as guest lectures in other Melbourne, Australia, colleges. Internationally, she is a writer and facilitator in the Child Theology Movement.