Prayer is an intimidating thing, even though it doesn’t have to be. I remember when I was only three and four, learning in Sunday school and church programs that praying meant bowing your head, folding your hands and closing your eyes, and I still catch myself saying these things when I lead my own children’s sermons in my church back home. We are taught to end the prayer with amen, to thank the lord, to ask for forgiveness. In fact, the Lord’s Prayer is literally written as a guide to teach early Christians how to pray.
However, I sat in the First United Methodist Church’s services last Sunday, and in the sermon Pastor Kathy gave some background about why Jesus taught the disciples to pray in such a specific way. Religious leaders back in the day took pride in making prayer a show, using what is supposed to be a personal conversation with God as a way to prove to others that they are the most devout, and therefore better than those who don’t pray publicly. They were practically mocking the divinity of prayer by making it into a performance art. Today, however, we understand the sacredness of prayer.
Prayer is more than a scripted stanza repeated rote among a congregation. When we think of it like this, we are focusing on prayer in the noun form, when instead we should approach it as a verb. That is why ISUWesley has participated in the 24-7 prayer room for the past 17 semesters. The prayer room is devoted to the action of praying, in whatever form fits you personally. Prayer should be emotional, should be vulnerable, and should pull you out of your comfort zone into the welcoming arms of the Lord. It doesn’t have to scare you, but sometimes it is difficult to take the plunge into your first hour in the prayer room.
If you’re nervous, I urge you to reach out to someone who has been involved with the prayer room. Ask them questions, or join them for an hour, or maybe part of an hour. If you just aren’t sure what to expect when you walk into the prayer room, let me walk you through the parts of the prayer room:
- The four “walls”
- The Welcome Wall: this will introduce you to our theme for the semester, in this case “Reigning Hope Over the World”
- The Worship Wall: this wall is a place for you to write your praises to God, or to add to others sentiments, and give prayers of thanks
- The World Wall: this is a focal point this semester, with a world map taped to the wall, and post-its to write prayers on for specific places or people
- The Wailing Wall: this wall is a place for you to write what is bugging you, to cry out for help, and to give and receive love and prayer from other people. If you see handprints traced over words, it represents someone who is praying for you, and will support you
- There are canvasses and paint in the room for you to express your prayers artistically
- There are sketchbooks if you’d rather draw with markers, crayons or oil pastels
- There are journals available if you need to write your feelings down, but you don’t want to put them on the wall. Feel free to read through the other entries in the journals, because it reminds us that we are never alone.
- There are also coloring pages near the sketchbooks if you aren’t a fan of drawing
- Feel free to play music off your phone, the CDs available or the radio
- The candles lit around the room are called seven day candles, and come from the Catholic store downtown. We light them when we pray over the room before worship on the first Wednesday of Prayer Week, and they continue to burn until the very last hours of prayer week.
- This semester we also have a ribbon writing station, where you can write a prayer of hope on a ribbon and tie it to the chicken wire hanging above the painted globe, in order to literally reign hope over the world.
- The entire floor of the prayer room is covered in cardboard, so feel free to write anywhere you feel you need too.
In the prayer room, the lights can be adjusted, the music volume can be adjusted, you can sit on the floor, the futon, on a kneeler, on the rug. The choices of how you want to spend your time are endless, and nothing you do in here will be a waste of time. There is no right way to pray, just be present, be comfortable, and open yourself up to the possibilities of your relationship with God. All you have to do is step through that door.