Every month, I like to establish a new habit or two for myself. It’s an opportunity for incorporating new ways to refresh my spirit. Mix it up, if you will.
This month, I’m hankering to add something “new” that I currently don’t do every day: pray. Yes, someone who as spiritual as I am, who devotes my thoughts and energy to sharing spiritual messages, doesn’t pray very well. Or at all. You could say I have prayer anxiety.
That’s right. I’m not great at talking to God, or knowing how, or feeling compelled to do so. Blame it on the anxious mind worrying on repeat about the same ol’ things, but I’d say it’s partially due to me just not having a clear rhythm of conversation. I know He speaks to me, how the heck do I speak to Him?
Are you in a similar conundrum with prayer anxiety? The desire to seek out God as we know Him but not knowing how to start things up. I have social anxiety around God, and I want to address it.
here’s the situation.
The act of praying was never really taught to me, not beyond memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and whatever tidbits are in the Lutheran Catechism. Even in my church classes on Wednesday evenings, prayer was laid out as a step-by-step process. First, you repent. Then you give thanks. Then you tell God how great He is (as if He doesn’t know already). Then you throw in some requests.
On my own, I still never found a groove that was beyond starting a prayer while in bed but falling asleep halfway through and not remembering what I even said. Those early days were very focused on superficial requests—enter in Robin Williams granting me wishes to lose weight and not feel so alone.
As I’ve gotten older, I still feel awkward about prayer, and it doesn’t come naturally like it rightfully should. I don’t gravitate toward praying. It’s not part of my routine, not unless I really force myself to think about it. I judge myself, hence why I’m putting a monthly focus on prayer.
relief from prayer anxiety.
We’re working on this together. Even if you claim yourself as a “prayer expert,” chances are, you still have the occasional tentativeness around prayer. You don’t know what’s best to say, how to say it, and when to say it. We put prayer in a box when not all of us fit into it.
In my own journey with prayer anxiety, here are some truths I’m keeping. If you resonate with any of them, let them guide you into a deeper connection with God.
the way to pray is grey.
If you’re down for the traditional praying with hands folded, kneeling by your bed, then do it. If you need to write everything down, then do it. Maybe you only remember when you park your car somewhere…well, that works, too.
There is no right or wrong way to pray. As black-and-white as we often paint religion to be, it’s fifty-thousand shades of grey. Just as we resonate with different beliefs over others, we also feel drawn to many ways to pray. We don’t communicate to each other the same ways, so why would prayer be any less diverse?
Stop judging yourself on what’s supposedly right and wrong. You’re only making assumptions based off whatever you were raised doing or used to seeing. Prayer, alone or in groups, is very individual. Let yourself explore different methods. See what clicks with you. If you’re still struggling, that means you haven’t found your “way to pray” yet. Be patient. Keep trying.
God’s not a drill sergeant.
Thinking of God however we do, there’s a sense of guilt in not “perfecting” prayer. Welcome, prayer anxiety! In the Christian view, since we’re supposed to be repenting our sins every other second, having prayer anxiety is just another sin to add to the mix…right?
Wrong-o, buckaroo. Having prayer anxiety means you care about your spiritual connections. You want to improve and find a relationship with God. That alone should speak volumes. God knows this. He sees it. And He appreciates it.
No matter where we’re at along the spiritual journey, God loves you in every capacity imaginable. You are so precious to Him. You are a product of His design, and He is constantly working through you. All of this is straight truth, whether you have prayer anxiety or not.
Don’t force prayer when it doesn’t feel genuine. Prayer anxiety comes from putting yourself in the mindset that “God expects me to do this. I need to do this to be a rightfully spiritual person. Aren’t I faking it otherwise?” Okay, maybe that’s just me.
Don’t memorize the Lord’s Prayer and say it half-heartedly, like it’s just another box to check off. Don’t sit in church folding your hands while a pastor gives a whole spiel and you’re mentally thinking about that one thing you need to do at that one time.
There’s only two people in cahoots while praying: you and the Lord. Of course other people can join the prayer party, too, but ultimately, you’re cutting out the chitchat and utilizing this gift you possess—a connection to the almighty Creator—for good. Pray about what’s really on your heart. What are you really struggling with right now? What are you really grateful for that you noticed today?
The beauty of prayer is the realization that you’re not in this life alone. Asking for help can already be challenging enough, but you don’t have to pretend to have all your ducks in a row. You’re not putting on a mask so people don’t worry about you. God, uh, already knows; He’s kind of smart like that. You can keep it real, talk like you usually would, and bare your heart to Him.
take THAT, prayer anxiety.
Prayer anxiety is quite a tricky subject because God is the ultimate source of comfort and peace; you wouldn’t expect to have anxiety about what relieves anxiety. That doesn’t make you inadequate; it makes you a human being in an environment perpetuating images we “should” live up to.
How we “should” pray is however you choose. Remove the walls you’ve built, the feelings of correctness and necessity. Pray because you want to work on your relationship with God. Pray for some spiritual self-care. At the end of the day, pray because God loves you and has blessed you immensely, and that’s something worth celebrating.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie