New Year, New Prayer Pattern

New year is known for resolutions. One I have been trying to keep for quite a while is to explore new ways of praying. Why this?  Well, to quote a wise six-year-old: ‘Because prayer allows us to hear what God is thinking about.’

Prayer doesn’t come naturally to me. I wonder if it comes naturally to any of us. I suspect prayer is similar to connecting with a person. The more time we spend with them, the more we really hear, learn and begin to understand that person.

However, to want to spend time with someone you need to find a way of connecting with them. At the start, it often feels awkward. Given time, relationships can progress into deeper connections. For a life-enhancing relationship, time, commitment alongside grace and humour by both parties is vital.

The most helpful tip I received in relation to prayer was when I underwent a week of guided prayer. I explained to my prayer guide my struggles with prayers, how too often I felt no connection at all when I prayed out loud. How I never seem to get close to the deeper connection. I knew logically God is there for everybody but I wasn’t experiencing that. He looked bemused and then asked “Have you tried praying differently? “

The prayer guide’s question made sense when I compared prayer to learning styles. Learning styles can help us connect with God as it allows us to discover that within each of us is our own route to God.   

We all learn differently and today schools deliberately use different learning styles in class, so everyone can learn using their best style. The four that are most talked about are visual learning (by seeing), auditory (by listening), kinaesthetic (by doing) or reading/writing (through words).

Knowing how we learn best, I believe can help us when it comes to connecting with people or even God. Every week I visit a different class in St. Mary’s School to explore new ways of praying using the different learning styles. This term we are using images to help us think about and perhaps connect with God. I have used images by the artist Hannah Dunnett. These use a combination of imagery and words- hopefully giving those who are visual or reading/writing learners the opportunity to connect, through prayer, with God. However, I also ask questions aloud to guide people in their prayer time, enabling auditory learners the opportunity to connect. This time I couldn’t find a way to incorporate kinaesthetic. This means next time we will focus on a prayer style that is kinaesthetic.

I encourage you all to try a new style of prayer at some point this year. If you fancy trying some of the prayers using Hannah Dunnett imagery I include one below with some questions. You can either read or speak these questions out loud to yourself. Or you can simply use the image as a way of connecting in prayer with God.

Questions to reflect on: How does this art make me feel?

Find a word you like in your art work. Take your time and pick a word. Focus on it. What does this word make you think about?

Does this artwork help you see God differently?

Art and photo by Hannah Dunnett

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