some prayer basics

Posted: February 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

I woke up on the altar at the front of my church, folded up on my knees on one of the steps, carpet marks surely pressed into my forehead from the time I had spent there, first praying, and then crying, and then…sleeping. 

Yeah, sleeping.

Ever fallen asleep amidst a prayer?  I’m guessing that most people who have prayed at all, have done this.  I’m also guessing that a whole lot of people don’t want to admit it aloud.  After all, it seems like it might be wrong – a failing – a disappointment to God.  What, you fell asleep in the middle of talking to Me?  What a jerk! 

This is one of the areas where God has taught me a lot as I have parented.  What I know for sure is that when my kids would snuggle up to me and tell me everything, and feel so safe that they fell asleep in the middle of a word…oh gosh…maybe I loved them even MORE.  It warmed my heart.  Why do we think God is a meaner parent than we are? 

Prayer can be a daunting thing.  It’s easy to feel like we are getting it wrong.  Easy not to do it, for lack of certainty in our ability.  Earlier this week, a great friend of mine asked this:

I really am just not good at praying for a long time.  Actually, I need your help on this…Do I have to have my eyes closed?  Do I need to be in complete silence?  How can I know that I’m doing it properly?  If I close my eyes I risk the possibility of falling asleep, I can sleep almost any time anywhere.  If I pray while I am cleaning the house or doing something else am I being unfair to God? Is that half ass praying?

I love the honesty of these questions, and I’m pretty sure they make God smile with joy too.  A seeking heart is a beautiful thing.  I decided to answer her here, because I know for sure she is not the only person with these sorts of questions.  So, my friend, on behalf of all who haven’t found the courage to ask:  thank you! 

The important thing to remember is that prayer is simply a conversation with God.  If you can talk to a friend, you can talk to God.  God is a friend, though admittedly that plays out differently in some ways than the friendships known between people. 

All comments below are just Karen’s opinions and experience, and I begin with the caveat that none of it is a, “thus saith the LORD” deal. 

Nope, you don’t have to pray with your eyes closed.  I often/usually close my eyes when I pray IN PUBLIC, for two reasons:  1) watching what is going on around me can be distracting, and 2) I could easily fall into caring how others are noticing/reacting to the way I pray – I don’t want my prayers to be *a show* and for me, closing my eyes when others are around helps me with that (this is also why I mostly close my eyes when worshiping with others.)

When I pray alone, often my eyes are open.  This is at least in part because, like my friend, I got mad sleeping skillz.  I can sleep sitting up, standing up, even driving (takes special tactics to prevent me from doing that last one.)  Closing my eyes can be an invitation to snooze, so if there’s no one around to watch the Karen show, I often pray with my eyes open.

I also pray with my eyes open all through the day.  Prayer does not have to be an “I’m not doing anything else” proposition.  I pray while I clean my house, while I drive, while I run, while I work at my desk, while I ride my bike.  The beauty of talking with Someone who never leaves us or forsakes us is that constant conversation is absolutely possible.  Often I am having a conversation with Him simultaneously to having a conversation with another person – ABOUT the person I am talking with.  I am noticing Wow, God, this person is so beautiful! and He’s celebrating that with me.  Or I am saying Hey, God, this person is really suffering…please help him, and maybe He’s only listening to me, or maybe He’s even talking back to me, showing me more as we push together into the conversation. (So, when someone says, “I will pray for you,” or “Can I pray with you?” be aware that they probably have been ALREADY praying for you while you spoke.)

So a whole lot of prayer happens WHILE I am interacting with everyday life, and no, that is not half-assed prayer.  We are called to pray without ceasing.  That’s gonna mean a whole lot of multi-tasking prayer!  (To be sure, though, we also need some set aside prayer time – a lot of people call it their “quiet time,” as the focus is different when we become really still in His presence.)

More on our “position” while praying – it’s important to know that prayer doesn’t have to be in a seated-with-hands-folded, or an on-knees position.  What I have found is that my heart responds to God differently when my body is positioned differently.  When I stand up and raise my hands to Him, it does one thing.  When I sit with my head in my hands, it does another.  When I pace the room, that’s something else.  When I am flat on the floor on my face, that’s a different heart condition.  I would urge anyone who is trying to grow in prayer to experiment with that.  Do it when no one is looking, because we are a darn self-conscious lot, and it’s hard to talk to God for real when we are dying of embarrassment at our awkwardness.  But in the privacy of your home, just try it.  Try praying in a LOT of different positions.  See if your heart responds differently, too. 

The big thing is:  don’t worry if you are doing it properly.  If you are talking with God, you are praying.  You will learn and grow as you pray more.  We start usually with childish prayers and the more time we talk with Him, the more that changes.  If you are or have been in a longterm romantic relationship, think about how your conversations with that person have changed since you first met.  Think how much better you understand what the person is really saying, really means, after a long time together.  It’s the same with God.  I’ll come back and blog another time about helpful ways to keep the conversation going (cuz EVERYONE hits the wall of “running out of stuff to say” and they LIE if they pretend they never have), but start with just talking to Him, and know that’s good enough. 

And if you don’t hear God talking yet, just for today, start to entertain the possibility that He wants to tell you stuff.  That prayer isn’t only YOU talking.  That it is possible for you to hear Him.  We can get into all that later.  Just for today, start tearing down the idea that God might talk to others, but not to you.  It’s a lie and you’re moving toward a better truth. 

much love


  1. I find myself a bit inept at prayer. I don’t necessarily form my questions about it in such definitive terms, but I often DO wonder if others “knew” the inside of my version of prayer, like it was an aside in a novel where the writer gives the reader that up close and personal view, they might scoff and stifle outright laughter.

    But then… it’s none of my business what other people think, of ME nor of How I BE ME.

    Recent thoughtsandfeelings have found me tentative with my prayers. Like I should KNOW BETTER than to STILL or YET AGAIN BE on about this.

    What I know that is unshakable, is that God isn’t looking at my outsides. So it’s really NOT God who I worry and fret about, it’s much more ME!!!

    Reading you, one can envision God like a coach or linesman. Encouraging, blowing the whistle to bring you in for a little inspiration or mayBE feedback.

    For me, that is NOT how I envision God. I see him more in the distance and nowhere near the sidelines of my Life & World.

    I like that reading you always causes me to look deeper within myself. NOT with a heart of judgments and opinions but one that is kind and safe, like Moosie’s [my grandmother] lap.

    • karen says:

      Currie, what I love about prayer is that it’s really a “between God and me” thing, so it doesn’t have to look the way for me that it looks for any other person (just like I don’t try to make my friendships each be exactly the same as other people’s friendships). Glad you’re finding grace along the way, as you search this out! God so meets us in our willingness, and you are a WAY willing lady…

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