Prayer: What is it and why should you do it?

“Our Father, who art in heaven…”prayer in church

These are the beginning words to one of the most famous prayers of all time: The Lord’s Prayer. It is the prayer Jesus taught others in the book of Matthew in the Bible.

Whether you believe in prayer or not, these days it has become sort of a vague practice. Meditation, a form of prayer, is a bit of a hot topic right now. Tim Ferriss mentions it in many of his podcast episodes. Many of his guests meditate on a regular basis.

Regular prayer sort of gets the shaft nowadays, despite the fact that it’s certainly as ancient of a practice as meditation, and probably even more so. The essence of prayer is dialogue. It comes in many forms and there are many ways we can practice prayer. 

“Eating keeps your body alive, and prayer keeps your soul alive. Praying is more important than eating because your soul is more important than your body… Prayer keeps your soul alive because prayer is real contact with God, and God is the life of the soul as the soul is the life of the body.” Peter Kreeft, Prayer for Beginners

the lord's prayerWhat is prayer?

There are three main types of prayer, including vocal, meditative and contemplative. Vocal prayers that can be memorized and repeated are steeped in tradition. “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and the Rosary are just a few examples, of course, one being much more simplistic than the other.

Mental prayer, or meditative, often involves using the Bible or another book to guide one through the time of meditation. Lectio Divina, as explained in Rethink Happy, is one way.

Contemplative prayer is seen as more of an “existence” with God. “Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” Teresa of Avila

Improve your health

Just a few of the benefits of prayer include cardiovascular health, reduced anxiety, improving ability to cope, mental focus, etc. Also, in the book The Little Book of Talent, Daniel Coyle mentions that there was a study done where participants prayed 27 minutes a day for eight weeks and their brain makeup actually permanently changed! Here’s a quote from the study:

“The participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises, and this is all it took to stimulate a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. McGreevey adds: “Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”

Also, the authors of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength mention how they aren’t all that religious but cannot deny the studies that demonstrate that people who attend church (pray) tend to have stronger willpowers.

Just do it

Prayer is not complicated, even though many people make it out to be. Can you talk to a friend? Then you can talk to God. No special words are necessary. And we can begin at any time. Start right now. Just take a minute and say thanks or make a request or pray for a loved one and then be silent for a bit. The key is to just start.Appointment calendar

The best time is right now! Take a minute and pray. In terms of family, I have a friend who read my book and thought it would be good for his family to pray more often.

They started with mealtimes, but then he took it upon himself to write a family prayer they recite together on a daily basis. This rigidity may not be right for your family. Begin with what works best for you.

Ideally, just like you set an appointment with your dentist or doctor, you should consider setting an appointment with God for prayer. It’s best to have it be a set time every day and to start small. Even two minutes at first is a great start.

Doug Kisgen's back cover photoGet some help

Thirty minutes per time is probably a good maximum. I know some people who pray 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. Ideally, you should consider finding a good spiritual director to guide your soul in the proper way best suited for where you are at in your journey.

Challenge #13: Set an appointment with yourself and God. Make it just two minutes if you have to, but set a time every day where you will spend time in prayer. We’ll talk more about the different types of prayer next week, so be on the lookout for more tips in this area! Let me know how

Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his wife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas.
For ways to put these ideas into practice, check out Rethink Happy coverDoug’s book, Rethink Happy: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Toward Authentic Joy, available as an e-book now, or pre-order the paperback!

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