A child in my Sunday School class asked me to pray for her mom. When I encouraged her to say a prayer herself, she became nervous and pleaded, "No, you pray. You're better."
Seeing that she lacked confidence, I began with what she already knew. At 6 years old, she loved giving hugs and did so joyfully and spontaneously. "How about if you send some love to your mom?" I suggested. "Can you give your mom a great big hug in your thoughts?"
"OK," she said and closed her eyes. Soon she was "sending love" not only to her mom but to everyone - her sister, her pets, me, and even to herself.
This little girl knew instinctively how to love. She just needed a little help getting started moving from love to prayer.
In the same way, when you find yourself wanting to pray but not sure of how to begin, you might try starting with what you know. Try drawing on the things in your life that not only made you feel good but moved you to action.
Perhaps you read something sacred that spoke to you and it changed your behavior. Reading it again may help you get started in prayer. Maybe you joined a church and you can think back to what it was that made you want to join. Perhaps there was a time when you stood up for what was right. It may have been a feeling of love, a desire that the truth come out, or a passion for justice that moved you. Focus on what means the most to you.
When David went out to meet Goliath, he trusted in God and he used what he knew. He used a simple slingshot, which, as a shepherd boy, was something that would have been familiar to him.
Saul, the king, gave David armor. The Bible says: "Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail" (I Sam. 17:38).
It must have been exciting for a shepherd boy to try on a shiny brass helmet. Using one was another matter. David did not have the confidence that he knew how to use the armor of a king. "David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him" (v. 39).
But David's lack of experience did not keep him from doing what he had to do. He went ahead with what he knew. He used his shepherd's slingshot with excellent results.
Sometimes we may feel that the truths we read about in the Bible are too big for us. Because we have not proved all the grand truths we read about, does that mean that we have to wait until we grow into them before we can pray? The story of David teaches us that we don't have to wait, that even simple and beginning prayers are valid.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "In order to apprehend more, we must put into practice what we already know" (pg. 323).
Eventually David would become a great and experienced warrior. He would learn to use the kind of armor that he had tried on for the first time that day. Though he would move beyond the slingshot, the sincerity that he put into each new challenge would remain the same.
Throughout our life, the way we pray may change, but our sincerity will always help us pray.
You may think that there is nothing prayer-worthy that you are already experienced in, but everyone can express love. Learning to pray means learning to focus on the love you are already expressing, and applying it to help others.
Right now you can enfold the arms of Love, the arms of Truth, the arms of justice, around a person or a situation. It's as natural for you to pray as it is for a child to give a hug. It can also be just as spontaneous and joyful.
Sometimes we just need to get started.
Cause me to hear
in the morning; for in thee
do I trust: cause me to know
the way wherein I should walk;
for I lift up my soul unto thee.