Don’t know where to start? Here’s a summary of each prayer practice. Find one that resonates with your personality and try it. Or focus on a method that intrigues you and try that one. Or take note of the one that repels you. Definitely try that one.
Never prayed before? Start here.
Breath prayer is a short, repetitive sentence. It’s spoken with your inhalation-exhalation cycle and it acknowledges both who God is and who you are. Currently, it is very popular. Its simplicity and ancient/present nature make it the perfect place to begin. If you seek stillness, like Father Sophrony the Archimandrite (1893–1938), or find yourself performing your faith, you may uncover a good fit or a good challenge here.
Music prayer expresses the principles and the playfulness of our relationships with God. It speaks to natural critics of this sort of writing, those who might feel I am “adding to the gospel.” Are you a perfectionist, like theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968), or a partyer? You might benefit from this prayer.
Action prayer is nonverbal communication to God, using our attitudes and our attempts to obey instead of words. Through it we draw energy from Christ’s example. It recaptures the old Protestant work ethic and transforms drudgery into the essential work of becoming like Christ. If you’re a thinker or a helper, like Carmelite Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897), you may be challenged by action prayer.
Presence prayer is concentrating on God’s attention towards us. It increases our awareness of and dependence on his personal presence. The ardor of young believers may be lured by the commitment that this prayer demands. More mature believers may conclude that such a reorientation of self toward God requires absolute dependence upon him. Do you wish to withdraw, like Brother Lawrence (1611–1691), or do you engage everything at 120 percent? You might receive the lessons of this prayer most effectively.
Extemporaneous prayer is spontaneous. We may praise God or make our confession to him. We may ask for or thank him for things. In these pages, many evangelicals and pietists will find their own spiritual heritage. For some of us extemporaneous prayer may be a habit that needs the sort of renewal that Philip Jacob Spener (1635–1705) advocated. Those of us who struggle to know and to express what we mean may grow the most from this simple method.
Examen prayer is allowing the Holy Spirit to apply Scripture to our lives in order to determine where we lack and/or succeed in living a holy life. Here the story of Martin Luther (1483–1546) and the practice both address the fear and freedom of exposure that come with any prayer. The Scripture may provide us with a sense of security as well as a new perspective. Are you a worrier, like Luther, or an achiever? You may find release and grounding in the examen.
Liturgical prayer is ritual verbal prayer that we offer to God, often in the company of other pray-ers. These pages invite those suspicious of liturgy to delight in the words and find commonality with praying brothers and sisters across the centuries and around the world. We passionate people, as well as those of us more diplomatic personalities, such as Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), may find a growing curve and a comfort zone here.
Imagination prayer is shared experience with Jesus that is based on stories of Jesus. It draws on our empathy and uses visualization. This exciting method balances Luther’s Protestant examen and Cranmer’s Anglican liturgy, all developed during the same era of church upheaval. Those of us who fight, like Ignatius of Loyola (c. 1491–1556), and those of us who retreat may feel engaged and moved by this encounter with Christ through imagination prayer.
Lectio divina includes Scripture reading and meditation. It is followed by a verbal response and active or passive reception. Recent years have seen an increase in the exploration of lectio because it joins ancient Scripture with personal devotion. Are you a romantic? Lectio may ground you in truth. Are you an optimist? Lectio may offer you the fullness of Christ himself. Are you an idealist? Lectio can help shift right thinking out of your mind and into your heart.
Body prayer is physical activity that promotes spiritual communion with God. It’s spending time doing something with God. It ends the website where we began—in the body—but it goes further to ground the prayer in Christ’s own physical nature. It closes our exploration of prayer by inviting you to expand upon the given steps, adapting and delving into prayer and prayer methods on your own. Those of us who are loyal, like Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 394) was, and those of us who are friendly sorts may enjoy “talking” with God in this manner.