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  • There are times when we struggle to pray. This is ironic given how prolific the examples and instructions are within Holy Scripture relating to prayer. Pray together, pray alone, pray in public, pray in private, shout your prayers, pray quietly, pray as our Lord has taught us, or by the example of the prophets. Even when words cannot express our prayers, we are told that the Holy Spirit intercedes and groans with us, our prayers to heavy for words. Yet even so, sometimes our prayers will not come.

    Praying for yourself is often the chief difficulty. How to be humble and submissive to God’s will while praying for yourself. How not to raise yourself above others, or to be honest with our desires and why we desire them. It is far simpler to intercede for another than to open our hearts before God, examine our motivations and find the words to express what we truly seek in him. Even then, though, we must be careful that our intercessions for others do not disguise our own desires as being altruistic and selfless intercessions for others. For example, praying for employment for someone who has lost a job when they owe us money: are we praying for their well-being, or in essence praying that they will repay us what is owed?

    Even closer to the point, when we simply are unsure how to pray for ourselves in a way that leaves open the Holy Spirit’s will, and that we are submitting ourselves to God, rather than simply asking for him to conform his will to our desires.

    The Book of Common Prayer is a useful tool when we run into either of these situations. It has prayers for pretty much any situation imaginable, from the Prayers and Thanksgivings (BCP, 37) to Forms of Prayer to be used in Families (BCP, 738) and all the collects and other prayers in between. While there is great value in using extemporaneous prayer, which allows for the intercession of the Holy Spirit and is perhaps a more natural and free-flowing form of communication when we are speaking with God, these written prayers have their own merit, particularly when we do not know the words to say or where to begin. They represent prayers that have been accepted by the Church as being beneficial and useful for prayer and theologically sound.

    The next time you are struggling for the words, consider finding a suitable prayer from the BCP to use as a starting place in your conversation with God.

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