Beth Birkholz: How to Pray (By Yourself)

I went away on retreat of sorts for a few days, partly self-guided, partly led by a yoga teaching reverend, and it's like it's been shaking all kinds of things loose that have been sort of lying dormant in my brain due to the excessive busy-ness of the last few months.


One of those things shook on out a few days ago. I was going to do some yoga by myself as part of this retreat, and was looking up an online class to do, of which there are many, and it came to me that I could perhaps guide my own practice.

Immediately, my mind resisted. But what do I DO? What order? What if I don't do it "right?" What if I don't do a correct sequence of asanas and everything gets screwy? What if I don't do it for long enough, or for too long?

And it came to me that this is how people talk to me about prayer. Praying by myself, with people, out loud, silently, whatever...I've been doing it for so long that I wouldn't ever think to question if I'm doing it "right." But many people do. They don't pray at home, or out loud, or really anywhere except where a pastor prays for them, because they're worried about all the same things I was worried about with my yoga practice.


This isn't me, but it's kind of how I felt.


I've been doing yoga for close to 15 years, on and off. I said to myself...excuse me, you've been to hundreds of yoga classes and followed many more online. You can come up with a practice that's going to be helpful, and suit you this morning. And I did, more or less.

For prayer, it's the same. Many of you have been going to church for many years. You've heard hundreds, thousands of prayers. Trust know what to say! And if you don't, take a page from Anne Lamott's new book on prayer, "Help, Thanks, Wow". Those three words are the starting point, and perhaps the finishing point, for every prayer ever prayed. She also says that when she started to pray, at first she just said, "Hello."

You CAN have a home prayer "practice." I promise. Start where you are, and know there's no special right way to do it. I know it's scary, and a little weird to start off without the structure of someone guiding you. But this practice may be the most important of all, when we strike out on our own, listen to what we need to do or say, and make it happen whenever and wherever we find ourselves.

Taken with permission from Beth's blog "Chickpastor."