At the start of the pandemic, I felt anxious and worried about the health and well-being of my family and friends. I also felt helpless as I wondered how long we’d be isolated from loved ones. While my spirituality is usually part of my daily routine, throughout this time, I’ve struggled to find the right words to offer up to God. With so many thoughts on my mind, I’ve found it difficult to sit down in a quiet place to focus on prayer.
I thought back to my time at Fordham University, where I learned a lot about Jesuit teachings. I was reminded of the Jesuit tenet “Find God in all things” and I applied this belief towards finding God in various forms of prayer.
Prayer can take many different forms, and I even had a nun tell me once that sleep can be a form of prayer. If you’re new to prayer or are feeling stuck in your prayer life, here are three creative ways in which you can pray:
When I’m at a loss for words due to exhaustion or burnout, I pray using music. I am not a singer, but I meditate or rest while listening to a meaningful song and think about how the lyrics can relate to my life and what I want to say to God. I enjoy Christian music and find that closing my eyes and listening to these songs is a joyful way in which I can speak to God, using the lyrics as my words to him. I find it easy to pray when the song is doing the talking and I can simply meditate on the words.
Whether it’s a traditionally Christian song like “Waymaker” by Michael W. Smith or a secular song that speaks to my faith such as “Rise Up” by Andra Day, these songs have the words I want to speak to God when I cannot always articulate what I want to say.
Often when I stretch or do yoga, I offer up these joyful movements as prayers to God. I thank him for creating my body as I move in ways that give me peace and comfort.
At the start of the pandemic, I felt burnt out. A friend recommended that I try Yoga with Adriene, and I found her yoga videos to be a peaceful and graceful form of movement that spoke to me as a form of prayer. Her videos never encourage people to move their bodies simply to burn calories or achieve a “perfect body.” Instead, they guide you through movements with the goal of having you find a deeper sense of purpose and grace in your life.
In some videos, Adriene encourages viewers to meditate on a word such as “ignite” or “ground,” and I offer these words up as a prayer of thanks to God while I move my body.
3. Imaginative prayer
When I attended Fordham University, a Jesuit school, I learned about how St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, developed a form of prayer that encourages us to use our imagination to become closer to God.
For example, we can imagine ourselves within the Gospels by thinking about what it would be like to witness one of Jesus’ miracles. How would I react if I saw Jesus turn water into wine or help a blind man see?
While we weren’t alive when Jesus performed these miracles, I feel close to Jesus when I imagine myself in his presence. At times prayer can feel like I’m speaking into the abyss to no avail, but these stories remind me of the life that Jesus lived on Earth.
My spiritual director has also guided me through Immanuel Prayer, which is a type of prayer that encourages people to imagine Jesus in your presence. She prompts me to close my eyes and asks me a series of questions such as, if Jesus were in the room with you right now, where would he be? Is he sitting? Standing? What does he look like? What would you ask him about? How would he respond?
At times I’ve felt distant from God or felt like Catholicism has been a set of rules to follow instead of a relationship with Christ. During these moments, Immanuel prayer has helped to remind me of my personal relationship with Jesus and his unconditional love for me
During times of distress, I’m comforted by songs, movements, and meditations, and it has been helpful to utilize these practices as forms of prayer. Not only do these practices offer me comfort, but they can also strengthen my relationship with God.
Whether you take on one of these forms of prayer or pray in a completely different way, remember that there is no wrong way to pray. The best type of prayer for you is the one that appeals to you on your own personal faith journey.