Last week’s column about prayer raised more questions than answers: Is God listening? How do we recognize God’s answers? Block out stresses? How do I make time? How much time? What if I’ve messed up, feel unworthy? When people pray for healing, what aren’t they healed? How can I pray for guidance? How can we maintain faith when there is so much hatred?

One person wrote in response: “Here’s my honest take. I live in a bustling house. There are five of us in a relatively small space. Our schedules run from 5:30am until the wee hours. My problem is trying to fit in a quiet time. There just isn’t one. I do pray daily but it isn’t the meditation that I would like. Not complaining but sincerely looking for practical suggestions.”

• I am busy to the point of being overwhelmed.
• It’s very difficult to find a quiet time and space.
• My prayers are not what I would like them to be.
• Please give me some practical suggestions.

Even in the Bible, people struggled with prayer: “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!” — Psalm 61:1-4

• O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! (Are you listening?)
• I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. (Can you help me?)
• Lead me to the towering rock of safety… (Can you protect me?)
• Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe… (Is my future secure?)

We often want answers from God but struggle in our relationship with God. We worry rather than trust. We complain rather than thank. We make excuses rather than confess. No wonder, so many people are struggling with their faith, staying away from churches and even questioning their belief in God. Prayer means giving your worries to God, who in return promises a supernatural peace: a peace far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.

Could it really be as simple as that? Yes it can but you must make a commitment to pray regularly.
Here is a basic formula I use to guide my prayer life:

1. Praise: Praise sets the tone and reminds you who God really is. Try looking at some of the Psalms and reading them out loud to get you started: Psalm 8, 19 & 148.
2. Confession: A good relationship strengthens with honesty. No sane doctor would offer a cure without hearing what hurts. Admitting your faults promotes spiritual healing.
3. Listen: Sometimes, it’s easier to talk than to really listen. Easy but not smart. Quiet times are often where you will find direction. Listening allows God to speak to your soul.
4. Ask for Help: This part becomes more meaningful when you take the time to praise, confess and listen. This is when you literally learn to stop worrying and start praying.
5. Thanks. Sometimes this step will not be easy but giving thanks recognizes that God is looking out for you and has your best interest at heart. You are saying, “I trust you.”
6. Journal: This may be the most important part of your prayer life. The journal is where disappointments, struggles, joys and miracles are recorded and remembered.

“Does God answer our prayers?” Yes, but are we doing our part?

Two people with similar difficulties begin to pray. One expects results and finishes his prayer frustrated and confused. Months later, the problem and the prayer is forgotten. Another prays looking to spend a few quiet moments with a trusted friend and completes her prayer feeling more content and at peace. Over the next few months while recording her thoughts in a journal, she notices progress with the problem itself and especially in her ability to cope. She thanks God.

Other comments from our congregation offered encouragement to keep praying:
• Ed prayed for me recently. I was totally blessed.
• Prayer is our direct conduit to God.
• I say a “dart” prayer if I know they need it – and I pray for people I pass by while driving.
• I’d love to see a morning prayer gathering at the church – 30 minutes of prayer.

Psalm 63 describes what prayer can mean: “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.” (1-4)

Think about it. You have a unique opportunity to be in a relationship with almighty God: One that can make an authentic difference in your life and the life of anyone who comes in contact with you. So, don’t give up on your prayer life and especially don’t give up on God.