Writer Anne Lamott says, ‘It doesn’t matter how you pray—with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors.’ Years ago, she wrote an essay that began, ‘Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.’
So, where’s your favourite place to pray?
When I was a teenager, I went through an especially earnest stage in which I took Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:6 literally: ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray’.
I shoved all the clothes in my wardrobe to one side, piled up some pillows, threw in a nice soft blanket (no reason to be uncomfortable) and rigged a clever little fabric anchor around the door handle so I could pull the door shut from inside.
‘What could be better,’ I reasoned, ‘than a dark room with no distractions in which to totally focus my thoughts on God?’ The King James Version of Matthew 6:6 actually says, ‘when thou prayest, enter thy closet’, so I figured I was being a super obedient Christian. God was bound to be impressed!
Anyway, immediately I pulled the door shut … and you guessed it … although there was a door handle outside the wardrobe, there wasn’t one inside. After pounding on the door and calling for help for a while, my mother eventually came downstairs and opened the door. Mum didn’t say anything; she just opened the door, raised an eyebrow and then left me to it.
Since then, I’ve learnt there’s no right or wrong, no best or worst place to pray. But there is an instinctive desire in each of us to reach out to God. And contrary to what some religious faiths might have us believe, we don’t have to be doing anything especially mystical to connect with our creator.
Sometimes we put specific requests to God—including those rapid-fire ‘help me!’ prayers. At other times we pray to capture a stronger sense of God’s existence, to remind ourselves that God is near to help and comfort. Sometimes our prayers are for those we care about, or for people and situations we’ve heard about in the news.
Our prayers can, of course, simply be part of an ongoing chat with God: ‘Did you see that?’ ‘‘Have I told you about …?’ ‘Thanks for …’ ‘I’m going to need your help with …’.
We certainly don’t have to stress about getting the words right when we pray. God knows our thoughts, and before a word is even on our tongue, God knows that, too (see Psalm 139). The Bible reassures us that when we can’t find the words or perhaps feel too weak to pray, even our ‘groans’ count as prayers so far as God’s concerned (see Romans 8:26).
The lie of this world is that we’re here alone and have to muddle through life by ourselves. But greater resources are available. And prayer is the way to access these resources. As God promises, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’ (Jeremiah 33:3).
The urge to pray will catch us in all sorts of times and all sorts of places. And when it does, God is always listening.
By Christina Tyson