Originally posted at the Young Life Leader Blog, This is part of of a series written after my summer assignment as a speaker at Young Life Adventures. During that assignment, I was offered the gift of helping teenagers at the front end of their faith process work out language they found helpful.
My friend Frank used to run a record label called “5 Minute Walk Records.” He wanted people to know that prayer could be like that. “Having a relationship with God” he used to say, “can be as simple as taking a five minute walk every day to tell God what’s on your mind.” I think that’s true. I also think more elaborate prayers, written out by other people, can be incredibly helpful. So can prayers written as songs, or prayers of silence. Again, I don’t think the style and organization of a prayer matters as much as the connection that prayer facilitates between you and God.
I am inviting you to try out a few different kinds of prayers. I’ve listed four kinds of prayer below. Consider trying one type of prayer per week for the month. Consider doing this with your campaigner group of a Bible study so you can talk about what you’re learning/discovering. Don’t worry if something doesn’t work for you. Some kinds of prayer work for some people and not for others. Almost no kind of prayer works for someone every time and in every season of life. Remember, prayer is a practice; you are not going to flunk prayer! The goal is not performance. The goal is figuring out what works for you as you connect with God.
Spend a few minutes writing down what’s in your mind. There may be some things you want to pray about, so write those down first. What are you worried about? What are you excited about? What do you need right now that you don’t have? Where did you feel most alive today? Where did you feel most alone and drained? Just write and don’t worry about how it comes out.
When you’re done writing (either done with one thought or done with a whole entry), ask God to help you see. Consider praying something like “Jesus, give me the eyes to see you in my own life.”
Spend a few minutes actively thinking about people things you are happy to have in your life. You can use a journal to make a list. It might begin with your parents or friends or your YL leader. It might include thankfulness for having a job or a place to live. Whatever it is, write it down as a prayer. Something like “Jesus, thank you for….” See what else comes up. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many good gifts God has given you.
When you’re done, thank God for the whole list. Consider praying something like “Jesus, thank you for all the gifts you give. Amen.”
Did you know there is an entire book of the Bible called “Lamentations?” There is. It’s a pretty heavy read, but it’s also really important. The writer spends almost the whole time grieving and asking God to do something about the brokenness he sees around him. I think that means you and I can do the same thing when we need to.
Now, I don’t think complaining all the time is a good thing. In fact, when I find myself complaining too much, I probably need to try that thankfulness prayer a bit more. But we all hit rough patches, right? Some of those patches are much rougher than others. God isn’t surprised or bummed when you are sad or angry. If you’ve hit a rough patch or you’ve been hurt, take a few minutes to talk with Him about it. Maybe take a walk somewhere you can be alone and just say something like “I can’t believe this happened. I don’t know what to do about it and I’m really ticked.”
Then listen. It might be enough to just get some things off your chest, knowing that God has heard you. But it might also be the case that, having lamented aloud or in writing, you realize you need help. Sometimes, a prayer of lament can uncover wounds you and I can’t deal with alone. Call your YL leader or a pastor and say “I am talking with God about this stuff in my life and I need help figuring out what to do about it.”
Spend a few minutes thinking about people in your life you care about. What do they need? Ask God for that on their behalf. Are they struggling? What do they need help with? Consider using your journal to write down that list of names and their circumstances. As you do, you may be surprised at who else comes to mind. You might think of someone but not know what to pray on their behalf. That’s great. Just tell Jesus “I don’t know what they need but You do.” Believe me when I tell you that, somewhere in your life, someone else prayed just like this for you.