RUISING DOWN CALIFORNIA FREEWAY 101 several years ago, I nearly caused the passengers in my car to have heart attacks.
There were no accidents that day. But that was the first time my fiancé (now husband) and our two friends had witnessed me doing something that is classically me—zoning out.
When I zone out (not limited to driving, but can be done literally anywhere, anytime), I’m in deep thought. I don’t lose sense of what I’m doing—I’m completely aware and focused on driving, or whatever other activities I’m involved in. But I become quiet, and draw inward. While “zoning” I might be thinking about what I have to do that day, recalling a past memory, plotting a plan of action for a task ahead. Or I’m talking to God.
Talking to God while driving (or cooking, vacuuming, or writing)? Absolutely. What I’m doing is opening a direct pathway between my thoughts and His ears. I tend not to speak audibly when I zone out to Him: it makes fellow drivers on Route 29 look at me strangely. But I communicate with Him just the same.
Am I really talking to Him?
What Is Prayer?
Prayer, as defined by Merriam-Webster Online, is “an address (as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought.”1 Perhaps you’ve been brought up to understand prayer in that context, which is, in fact, talking to the Creator of the world.
Ellen White wrote: “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.”2
Many of our earliest memories may have included learning to pray. We may have uttered the “Now I lay me down to sleep . . .” version, or gone further by adding our own creativity to it. Maybe you learned to pray at bedtime or mealtimes. And there were situations or purposes for prayer, such as thanking the Lord for His blessings of food, a new day, and good health. We learned to pray for God’s protection over travel, or guidance when starting at a new job or school. And with growth, we learned to speak to Jesus about pain, anguish, and fear.
In those contexts, there are approaches to the act of praying that are tantamount to our concept of acceptable and unacceptable ways to pray. Case in point: on your knees, hands folded, kneeling down—acceptable; sitting on your couch, eyes wide open, head resting on pillow—unacceptable. Or is it?
It All Counts
Can a person pray while driving down a busy highway with their eyes wide open? Can we talk to God in the shower? Can your bathroom serve as a chamber of communion with the Lord? “There have been plenty of times where I go to sit and cry in the bathroom to God,” says Bethany Morse, teacher, age 25. “It is one of my favorite places to go and be alone—one place where others actually respect your personal space. I also pray some of my most heartfelt prayers in the shower, while the hot water warms my body and God rewarms my heart.”
Marvin King, a Web manager, age 28, says, “I don’t always pray on my knees, but I do find the act of kneeling to be helpful in focusing my attention on the Lord. I am easily distracted, even by my own thoughts, so kneeling helps keep me on track.” In a hectic world filled with rapidly intersecting commitments pulling you in a dozen directions, how do you harness the power of a meaningful and heartfelt prayer experience?
Prayer, first and foremost, is an open, no-holds-barred connection line to the Lord. He already knows everything there is to know about us. But prayer allows us to put the petitions and praises of our heart—bared and raw—out to Him in a way that is completely honest and intimate.
When we are totally open before God and connected to Him—much like having a strong Internet server connection—it is there that information can flow freely. We are free to express, and He is free to impress upon us—or even better, speak clearly—His guidance, love, and direction.
Pour Your Heart Out—Your Way
The story of Hannah in the Old Testament is a story of prayers sent heavenward through the outpouring of a woman’s heart. Hannah yearned for a child in a desperate way. Her circumstances as second wife to Elkanah, and a childless one at that, made her need of a baby seem all the more dire. At her yearly visit to Shiloh to offer sacrifices to the Lord, Hannah pressed her case forward to Him.
“In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.’ . . . As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.’ ‘Not so, my lord,’ Hannah replied, ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’”3
Hannah’s deepest desires uttered in her prayers were spoken truly from her heart, but in her way—private, inaudible, earnest. A prayer passed directly from her soul to the heart of God. And as the story tells us, the Lord was deeply moved and blessed her with the son she called Samuel. She prayed in a way that was uniquely hers with confidence that God would hear her and answer her. And He did.
It’s still the same today. A prayer spoken (or not spoken) in complete sincerity to God is always heard. Always.
How to Do It
The Bible does offer us direction on prayer. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”4
But what matters more—just praying or the way we pray?
“If God is omnipresent, then He can hear you wherever you are. To say that He listens only when you are in
a specific position/atmosphere is limiting Him. So it counts when you speak to God from any location or position,” says Morse.
Shereen Cockrum, human resources associate, age 31, adds: “I don’t think it matters how you pray, and I also don’t think one way of praying works well for everyone. I think everyone needs to find out what works for them in communicating/connecting to God. I’m not against praying with your eyes closed and on your knees if that is the only way you can concentrate on what you are doing. But I think the most important things about talking to God are having a sincere desire to grow closer to Him, to be a better reflection of Him, and to develop a relationship with Him that influences the way you live.”
If finding time, a quiet place, or a moment of peace to commune with God challenges you, take heart. Your time with the Lord—no matter how you do it or where—counts. “We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven.”5
If it is a matter of lifting your soul to heaven, you can do that any place, any time. You can tune everything out, get in your zone, and open up your heart and mind to God. “I pray to God anytime, anyplace that I feel the need by silently sending out my thoughts,” says Kaleb Cockrum, attorney, age 32. “I have to admit that most of the time I don’t even use formal language. I guess the long form letter paradigm is just as dead in the physical world as it is in the spiritual. I just send Him instant messages throughout the day.”
Nothing Wrong With the Tried and True
It must be said that if your prayer time with the Lord works better when it follows a set, more traditional model (bedtime or early morning devotions, etc.), that’s awesome. The purpose of prayer lies in your ability to commune with God heart-to-heart, whether to pour out your deepest burdens, fears, and heartaches, or to praise Him, laugh with Him, and just enjoy the pleasure of His company.
Kristen Moses, homemaker, age 32, says: “If there is something I know that needs praying about, I will often wait for a quiet, private moment in which to do so instead of just offering it up to God right then and there. It’s not that I don’t think it counts; I’m just not used to it. It is something I would like to do more of, as I am teaching my little one that she can do the same—talk to God anywhere and He does listen.
“What matters to me most is not how I talk to God, but how often and what I am bringing to Him in prayer. Am I griping through my prayers when I have a bad day? Or am I bringing all to God—praises, thanksgiving, challenges—every day, throughout the day, regardless of what circumstances bring me there?” she adds.
At the end of the day what truly matters to our relationship with God is that we spent time with Him. And it’s not just because we should spend time with someone we love. It is vital to our existence to bring ourselves into His presence, where He can touch us, guide us, and just love us. He wants to be with us. Period.
Zone out to Him when you need to—He’s waiting.
1 Courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online, www.m-w.com/dictionary/prayer.
2 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 93.
3 1 Samuel 1:10-15, courtesy of BibleGateway.com, www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1 Samuel.
4 Matthew 6:6, courtesy of BibleGateway.com, www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew.
5 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 99.
Wilona Karimabadi is marketing and editorial director for