4 alternative ways to pray
Many of us find prayer a challenge at times – it can be difficult to know where to begin, or perhaps you're stuck in a rut with a single way of praying, and might need to try something new to hear from God in a fresh way.
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes' The little book of prayer experiments aims to help people think outside of the box when it comesto prayer.
"As conversation is to human friendship, so is prayer to divine friendship with God," writes Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in the foreword to the book.
"Whatever form it takes, prayer is essential for living and breathing and engaging with God – not just politely but also honestly and passionately, ideally with every part of our being... The Bible teaches that prayer is the most powerful transformational force in the lives of individuals, churches and even nations.
"History shows us that whenever and wherever people have turned to God in prayer, they have rediscovered their purpose and been renewed and empowered."
With that in mind, here are four alternatives ways of praying that may help you in your walk with God:
1. Colouring the Bible
By spending time writing out and illustrating Bible verses, she says "your conscious mind will be occupied with the drawing and colouring, leaving your subconscious to meditate on the passage and allowing it to sink into you.
"Approach this activity deliberately as a prayer, not just as decoration, and expect the words to become part of you and speak to you."
2. Breathing meditation
Christians have been engaging with contemplative prayer for hundreds of years, but it's a practice that's arguably been lost in more charismatic traditions.
"Meditation is about setting time aside to be calm and at peace," Threlfall-Holmes writes. "It is very different from most other types of prayer in that it is not about talking to God, or even listening to God, but simply about being. The idea is simply to sit there and let your mind be free from thinking about anything in particular. You are not trying to achieve anything, or say anything, or do anything; you are just taking time to be."
If you're unused to sitting in silence for prolonged periods of time, she suggests focusing on your breathing and/or repeating the same word or phrase to help you concentrate. The 'Jesus prayer' may help, or a favourite Bible verse. Don't worry about any distractions or thoughts that pop into your head; acknowledge, but don't dwell on, them, and refocus.
3. Prayer Den
Another suggestion is to create a 'prayer den' somewhere in or around your home. This is essentially a small enclosed space dedicated to prayer – think of a pop-up tent or similar – and decorated with fairy lights, photos of people or countries you want to pray for, etc. Having a smaller space to pray in can help you to feel intimate with God, especially when you arrange it so it's personal to you.
4. Praying with your body
Our minds, bodies and spirits are intricately connected, and "what we do with out bodies can shape our thinking", Threlfall-Holmes says. Instead of sitting still while you pray, why not adopt your posture as a way of physically expressing your prayers?
There are endless positions you could try, but a few suggestions include lying down face down as a form of prostration before God; reflecting on his majesty and our comparable weakness, standing with arms raised in a posture of worship, kneeling, or sitting on a chair – imagining Jesus pulling up a chair and sitting next to you.
Take time to reflect on how each of these positions makes you feel in relation to God, and allow that to move you to worship.
The Little Book of Prayer Experiments is published by SPCK, price £9.99, and is available now.