Prayer is a cherished time to come to know God and to reflect, yet prayer can become rote. Even if we do pray daily we may at times find it fruitless or notice impatience within ourselves. Cultivating prayer routines is very valuable, but sometimes we need to shake up our prayer a bit. Like any relationship that needs rekindling, our relationship with God may need some freshness. Here are five fresh ideas for renewing your prayer.
1. Focusing on a Sense
God gave us our five senses. Select one and simply notice how that sense is being engaged. If you pick hearing, you may notice the hum of the refrigerator or the quiet breeze outside. If you choose touch, you may notice the pressure on your body from the chair or an itch on your neck. Pray with one sense, and recognize it as a gift from God.
2. Water Offering
One of my favorite kinds of prayer comes from Rachel Naomi Remen’s book My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging. Remen suggests filling a bowl slowly with water, letting the water represent the various “contents” of your life: your health, your gifts, your weaknesses, your family, your triumphs, your possessions, and your history. Place the bowl in a special place and offer it to God. Like the Suscipe says, “All that I have and hold…to you, Lord, I return it.” At the end of the day empty the bowl into the earth.
3. Slow Prayer
Choose a prayer you know well, like the Our Father, and recite it very slowly. Go one word at a time, without rushing, letting the individual word speak to you. Relish its meaning. Let it touch you. Then move to the next word. It’s okay if you spend the entire prayer time on just a single word!
4. The High-Low Prayer
In this shortened form of the Examen, ask yourself what the high point of your day was and why. Then ask yourself what the low point was and why. Share these two moments with God, and engage in a conversation with God about them.
5. The Prayer of Doing
Many spiritual directors will tell you that prayer is not about doing. However, why not make something you already do into a prayer? For instance, if you exercise, notice your body movements. Acknowledge how God animates you and gives you life. If you’re cleaning the house, be present to the work as if each action of wiping or organizing glorifies God. If you’re cooking, pay attention to the foods’ colors and smells, and receive them as God’s gift.
Just as you may go out with a friend for coffee one week and bowling the next, it’s okay to experiment with various kinds of ways to have an encounter with God, our closest friend.