Prayer 101: Here's How To Talk To God
Growing up in a Christian household, I was always taught that having a relationship with God is important. I'd see this shown through the examples of immediate family members who were never shy about learning and mastering how to talk to God through prayer. For many, it's a way to relieve stress, usher in blessings, have quiet time, and release mental and spiritual baggage. It is also a vital aspect of being a Christian (as reflected in Philippians 4:6) and allows us to humble ourselves before God (2 Chronicles 7:14), gain wisdom (Daniel 1), and open our hearts for revelations and instructions (Jeremiah 33:3). Whew sis, I know that was a lot of Bible verses, but they are a true indication of why prayer is necessary.
I remember being 11 and reading a book by Judy Blume called "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret." It was an eye-opening exploration of a preteen going through a lot of changes—awaiting her first time menstruating, having her first kiss, understanding her parents' interfaith marriage, and facing peer pressure. I'd known a lot about the church's version of connection with God but this was the first time I could directly relate to developing one on my own terms.
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Since then, I've seen so many things manifested in my own life through prayer alone, especially during pandemic-related challenges related to finances, employment, and family relationships. Like literally, after I've prayed, issues were either resolved, on the way to being resolved, or didn't bother me as much as they did before I prayed about them. And there are millions of people who pray at least once a day. Many successful leaders can even attest to the power and importance of prayer, from Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce, to Denzel Washington and Chance the Rapper.
You don't have to be perfect, a minister, super-sanctified, or super-educated to pray. All people are welcome to talk to God (1 Timothy 2) and to be blessed by communicating with Him (Matthew 5:6).
If you find yourself stuck on how to talk to God or you need to reconnect, try these 5 steps that have been helpful in my journey:
Image via Giphy
1. Talk to God, frankly, about your thoughts—or even doubts—about prayer.
It might seem strange at first, but I've found it helpful to simply go to God as if I'm talking to a trusted loved one. I mean, He is indeed our Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), so why not? You might feel a bit intimidated or silly at first, but go to God and tell him about those feelings. (I still do this. No lie. just the other day I said, "God, I feel super-stupid right now, and I'm mad. Can you please help me to understand and to overcome the anger? Can you help me at least accept and make the necessary changes I need to?)
What's going on in your life? What are you grateful for? What are you confused about? What's bothering you? What would you like to accomplish? Don't get caught up in formalities. (Matthew 6:7 touches on this.)
You can pray with your eyes closed, open, standing, kneeling, quiet, or loudly in a space of your choosing. (I've excused myself at work to go to the bathroom and pray, I've prayed even while someone is speaking to me—especially when I've felt disrespected or "tried" as they say—and I've prayed while in rush-hour traffic, eyes open, of course!) If you feel the urge to kneel, do that. If you need to shout, do that. If you need to cry, let it out. If it's one sentence or a whole hour-long session, that's fine, too. Just have a conversation and be candid. Sit quietly in silence when you can't find the words. You can even write down your thoughts and read those words in your prayer.
If you feel insecure about doing this or think it's not "proper," ask God, "Well, why does 'being proper' matter so much? God, please reveal things to me about the way in which to pray." Take a step forward and God will do the rest.
2. Start with the basics: 'The Lord's Prayer.'
One of the first prayers I learned as a child (other than the usual dinnertime rhyme "God is great, God is good..." ) was "The Lord's Prayer." Jesus offers this prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, and it covers respect of God, forgiveness of others, protection from evil, and coverage of your needs. Throughout my life I've come back to this prayer, and though it might seem a bit formal, it's a go-to for me.
Even at a time where I'd totally turned away from religion and spirituality altogether—and had gotten into some pretty dangerous situations during a dark period of my life that involved a lot of drinking, partying, and tolerating unhealthy abusive relationships—this prayer would be on replay. It was like God had followed me, a phenomenon I'll never forget and will forever be grateful for. It's an empowering prayer, and when I really dig deep into the words and their meaning, I get a sense of boldness and peace.
Other places in the Bible where you can find inspiring and empowering prayers include Psalms 63 (praise), Psalms 51 (forgiveness and redemption), Psalms 30:6-12 (endurance), Psalm 23 ("The Lord is My Shepherd").
Image via Giphy
3. Read about the prayer practices and experiences of others.
I'm huge on asking God questions and just questioning any notion that is presented to me. It's part of the reason I became a journalist. (Hey, it was either study media or go to law school.) I used to fear that I'd be cursed or sent to hell for questioning God, but then I found out by reading and talking with people who have a balanced relationship with spirituality that being inquisitive and keeping it real with God is not a bad thing. (And just read James 1:5-6 to see what I'm talking about.) My mom, a minister and someone who has a special nuance with counseling women, used to always tell me, "Janell if you have questions or doubts, talk to God about them. Humbly ask him to open your heart and mind. Ask for wisdom. You will get what you ask for."
Gaining a connection with God is a journey, and reading up on spirituality to learn about the experiences of others often provides confirmation or answers to questions I've posed during prayer. Watching videos or listening to podcasts about people's real-life personal stories involving prayer (such as this one featuring author Priscilla Shirer or the "Behind Her Faith" series and podcast) helped me understand and relate more to the practice of prayer. It also helped to read about how someone specifically applies prayer to their process in facing challenges. (Try stories like this one and these.)
4. Join a prayer group or get a prayer partner.
I used to be totally against prayer groups and hotlines because I'd gotten to a point that I preferred prayer alone and in private, but my sister changed my mind on this. I'd noticed the boost in strength, confidence, and comradery she'd find in praying with other women—whether in person or via phone. The Bible even touts the significance of praying with unity with and for others (Matthew 18:19-20 and James 5:14-15). Listen, any effort done in numbers increases in power, and if you're new to praying, it's good to pray with someone who might have a bit more experience, have a special gift for prayer (1 Peter 4:10-11), and who can prepare us to feel at ease to begin praying on our own.
Tap into your network to find believers to pray with, or try a hotline. The Christian Broadcast Network has an awesome prayer line where you can talk to a live person and make requests, and many local churches offer phone or video prayer services. Utilize all of your resources and have patience.
5. Invest in a daily devotional or prayer resource.
To remain connected to prayer and making it a regular part of your life, having devotionals or other resources is a must. I love books like "Starting Your Day Right" by Joyce Meyer, "When Women Pray" by T.D. Jakes, "Fervent: A Woman's Battleground for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer" by Priscilla Shirer, and "Servant Leadership" by J. Oswald Sanders. This women's devotional bible also is a favorite of mine. All of these books provide positive, easy-to-understand insights on faith, prayer, connection with God, and self-reflection.
There are also a few cool apps out there like Abide (which includes affirmations and Bible-based sleep meditation resources) and Echo Prayer (which offers reminders via phone or email and the option to share your favorite prayers with family and friends.) YouTube has some good prayer resources as well, and one I particularly like and consistently listen to is Daily Effective Prayer.
Prayer is personal, dynamic, and essential, and the way you choose to pray evolves along your spiritual journey. I find joy in the process, continue to seek God even when I've fallen off a bit, and strive to do whatever it takes to become stronger and stronger in the practice of it. I hope you will, too.
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Nelly And Ashanti Are Giving It Another Shot? Here's What You Should Know About 'Ex Reconciliation'
Okay, so if you’ve read any of my pop culture think pieces on this platform before (like here or here), you already know that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time talking like I know people who I actually…don’t. As someone who grew up in an entertainment industry home and then got my (official) start in journalism in the entertainment realm as well — let me just tell you from very up close and personal experience that nothing is a smoke-and-mirrors game quite like the celebrity world. That’s why it’s wise to not invest too deeply into it/them.
At the same time, since, for better or for worse, we do live in a culture that seems to be constantly consumed with what famous folks are doing. What I prefer to do is use certain news stories (even if they are basically nothing more than tabloid gossip, depending on the day) as personal teachable moments — and since the word on the street is saying that Nelly and Ashanti are giving it another go, I thought that topic would be a great one to tackle.
My personal recollection of them being together consists of my finding Ashanti’s visual for her single “Good Good” (damn, was that 2008?!) to be cute enough. Plus, I liked how they mostly kept everything off the grid — unlike the other relatively reunited (and does it feel so good? I can’t tell because Ben always looks so irritated) couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, chile). Anyway, beyond that, and then reading some timeline pieces on Nelly and Ashanti (a recent one is located here), there’s not much more that I can say as far as their coupledom goes.
Ashanti and Nelly during Sean Diddy Combs First Fragrance Launch for Unforgivable - After PartyJohnny Nunez/WireImage
However, when I did happen to catch a roughly hour-long Instagram post (here) on Ashanti’s page a few months ago talking about how (among other things) she used to want six kids, and now she’ll “settle for” two or three, I took that to be a subtext that she’s ready to get into something serious/substantial — and sometimes that can mean reconciling with someone from your past.
It’s kind of like a point that was made by Alec Baldwin’s character in the movieIt’s Complicated (paraphrased): “Some people should get back together 10 years after a divorce because the time apart can help each person to grow. And since you already know your ex so well, reuniting later could be the best decision ever.”
Nelly and Ashanti reportedly broke up ten years ago, so maybe they are life-imitating art. Either way, before you use them as inspiration (or ammo — LOL) to get back with someone from your own past, please ask yourself the following questions. Then be serious about the answers. Then run them by a trusted friend (or your therapist). And then, if it all checks out, proceed with extreme wisdom and logic. Because getting back with an ex is a bit like a crap shoot — it can be a real blessing or a HUGE mistake. That’s why factoring as much as possible beforehand is such a wise thing to do.
Why Did the Two of You Break-Up?Giphy
I recently got certified (and soon to be credentialed) to be a professional certified coach (a holistic one). It’s interesting because, when you’re actually learning from an ICF-accredited school, a question that actually isn’t asked in life coaching is “Why?” Why is that? Because while therapy/counseling tends to focus on the past quite a bit, life coaching specializes in asking questions that will empower you to decide what is best for your future.
In this case, though, you definitely need to take your past into account because if you don’t factor in why you broke up with your ex in the first place, it could result in you just repeating the same ish that you did before — and if that ish is centered around things like abuse (neglect is abuse, by the way), constant lying or being taken for granted, you really need to do some serious vetting to see if those things are still a present-day issue.
And yes, this is a critical point to consider because, while some people live by the motto “forward ever, backward never” or my personal favorite, “getting back with an ex is like getting out of the shower and putting the same underwear on,” not every break-up is horrific or even devastating. Sometimes it really is a matter of meeting the right person at the wrong time or the two of you really liking each other, but something just doesn’t quite “click.”
You know, it is Benjamin Franklin who once said, “All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking WHY.” And since, hopefully, you’ve been learning, growing, and improving as an individual, ever since you ended things with your ex, asking yourself why you broke up and being really honest about the answer, that can help you to see WHY you should consider trying again or WHY the past should totally be left there.
What Lessons Did You Learn? During and Since Ending the Relationship?Giphy
Everyone is a lesson. That is, if you’re humble enough to know how to be taught anything (some of y’all will catch that later). And just so we’re all on the same page when it comes to this particular point, a lesson is a practical piece of wisdom, and wisdom is something that offers insight and heightens your sense of discernment. In other words, if it’s truly a lesson — and you apply it — there will be no reason to repeat it; your insight and discernment won’t let you.
So, when it comes to your ex, what lessons did they teach you? One of mine taught me to not convince myself to be with someone just because they are a good person. Another taught me to not "be a wife" to someone who is not my literal husband (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife"). Still, another taught me to stop mistaking nostalgia for actual love (more on that in just a bit). The first and second lessons I learned during the relationship. The last I learned after. And because the lessons were so profound, they totally altered my way of thinking — which makes getting back together with any of those guys basically an impossibility. Wisdom won't let me.
On the other hand, I have a friend who is kinda-sorta back with one of her exes because the lesson that she learned during the relationship was because she had never been in love before, she kept playing the exhausting game of come-close-go-away. Now that she's had some therapy (and matured a bit), she and her ex are in a far better place which makes it easier to interact with one another on another level. Is it just like it was before? No. In many ways, it's better because, since my friend has less anxiety, there is less stress on the relational dynamic, which makes them able to see where things could go a lot easier for both of them.
I am a firm believer that life is one big school. Thing is, when it comes to the lessons that you need to learn, you can stay in the same class for 20 years, if need be. So yeah, when it comes to pondering about getting back with your ex, did the lessons that you already learn reveal to you that it would be a smart move or a really dumb decision?
Who Reached Back Out First? (Yes, It Is Valid)Giphy
Typically, the "Who did it first?" question leans on the side of silly and/or petty and/or entitled to me. Oh, but not in this case. And although words cannot express how disgusted I am with how Brian McKnight is displaying extremely poor (fellow) Gemini energy, he is a great songwriter, and his song with the hook, "Do I ever cross your mind? Anytime?" — let me just say that an ex who says they never think about their exes from time to time they are a bold-faced liar.
HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that they care enough to reach out or that it's a good idea, even if they're tempted to do so. So, when someone actually does step out and send an email, get in the DMs, or leave a voicemail (your ex still has your phone number? Interesting), that's quite telling — although you do need to take into serious account what it all actually means.
For instance, back when my first book came out, a few of the characters (pun intended and not intended) hit me up. One was my first love. All he really did was send me an email to tell me that he read the book and that he was sorry for the role that he played in the pain of the relationship. And that he would always love me.
Now guess what part I focused on? You can check out "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour" to get the gist of that. As a result, for several more years, off and on, that continued to be all that my heart (the Bible says the heart is deceitful; always remember that — Jeremiah 17:9-10) honed in on. That man didn't say that he wanted to rekindle anything. He said that he wanted to apologize. Lawd, how much we can spare ourselves if we'd just learn to listen to what is being said instead of editing conversations into what we want to hear.
So, did he reach out first? Yep. Did he want anything? Not really. And from personal experience, that’s why “who reached out first and why” is something else that needs to be given some serious thought. After all, the two of you broke up for a reason…so, if they do reach back out, now more than ever, it’s important to take their words literally. If he only wants to see if you’re well, let him know that you are and leave it there. If he wants to apologize, accept this apology and tell him to take care. If he asks to see you — now that’s when trying to figure out if reconnecting, on any level, is actually a good idea.
Bottom line here don’t make something be what it’s not. Oh, and if you are the one who reaches out first…let me just say that I know a woman who got ghosted by an ex back in college, she decided to reach back out to him some 20 years later, and all they’ve been doing is dating for over ten years now (even though she wants to be married). I mean…he didn’t come looking for her; she went out looking for him — which kind of translates to me that he was fine whether they spoke again or not.
See what I mean? *Elmo shrug*
Is It Love? Or Nostalgia?Giphy
Please, please, PLEASE — if you don't get anything else from this article, get this: just like fleeting passion can be mistaken for lasting love, so can nostalgia; the definition of the word explains a lot of the reason why, too: "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations."
You know, the mind is a funny thing. "Funny" in the sense that, if you lean into nostalgia, it typically will edit out all of the crappy stuff while encouraging you to focus solely on the good times. For instance, I know a woman right now who got back into something with an ex who was sending her all kinds of expensive shoes and random flowers for the first few months…just like before. Now? Now he's calling her when he's tipsy to vent about his ex-wife.
How did she get caught up in this pattern? Good ole' nostalgia, chile. Initially, reconnecting included discussing fun dates and good sex. Yet, nostalgia is kind of like a drug — it gets you really high, yet sooner or later, you're gonna crash…and that can have you feeling super low.
You know, there's not one ex who I don't have a myriad of good memories of. Yet when I bring logic, common sense, and facts into the dynamic, they all needed to be exes — and honestly should stay just that way. Just because I "love" certain things about them, that doesn't mean that I'm actually still in love with them…and why let the former cause me to overlook the latter?
Pleasant thoughts are fine. They aren't enough to go off of to rekindle a relationship, though. You are far too precious. So is your time. This brings me to the next point.
Time Is Precious: How Would Reconciling Make the Most of Yours?Giphy
It actually wasn't too long ago that I penned the piece, "Let's Finally 'Spring Clean' ALL Of Our Exes Out Of Our Lives, Shall We?" for the site. One of the things that I mentioned in it is there is something known as recycling (making something new without changing its original form), and then there's something known as upcycling (taking an original thing and changing it into something totally different; typically something better). That said, if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, I recommend that you determine if it's going to be an UPCYCLE for you. Otherwise, really…why do it?
Something that I oftentimes tell people in their 20s is it really is time out for acting like that decade is nothing more than being in the 2.0 version of your teens. In other words, if you don't make wise decisions, then, you can end up wasting a lot of time. And then you'll need even more time trying to heal and recover from it all.
Personally, that's one of the things that I mourn about a lot of the moves that I made back then; I had to spend a significant amount of my 30s healing so that, should I ever decide to marry a man, I will be the helpmate that he truly deserves. And that's another reason why I'm good on my exes — I don't have another decade to throw away.
And for those of you who may struggle with taking personal accountability and so you like to romanticize your poor choices by saying things like, "Nothing is a waste of time," — no offense, but that is a damn lie. Waste literally means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander," and yes — it is quite possible (and easier than most people think) to involve yourself in something (or with someone) without getting an adequate return…in return.
When one of my surrogate mothers passed away of cancer in her late 50s several years ago, one of the last things that she said to me on her hospice bed was, "It goes by sooner than you think," and I have always kept that in the forefront of my mind. As I get older, I find myself saying, "Where does the time go?" more and more.
An ex coming back into your life could potentially be an awesome thing. "Awesome" if the two of you aren't going to be a waste of each other's time. Again, use the definition of the word as a barometer. Be honest with yourself as you do.
This Time, Be Friends First (or Again)Giphy
I've been in the couples counseling game for a long time now. And if there's one thing that a lot of married and divorced people have told me, it's that they wish they had spent more time trying to cultivate a friendship with their spouse than a relationship — because when the foundation of something is unstable, the house will eventually crumble on some level.
And this brings us back to Nelly and Ashanti — they seemed to last for a good amount of time by keeping things private the first go around, so if they are indeed reconciling, I'm not sure why they would switch up the formula now. Either way, I hope that they and you will make friendship the top priority. Why? Because the best things come out of friendships. The healthiest relationships are included.
When it comes to you and your journey, please check out articles I've penned, like "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships," "7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One," "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend," "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?" and definitely "Self BFF: 7 Signs You're Your Own Best Friend." Because if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, the least that the two of you need to be towards each other is hella loyal, honest with each other, and respectful of each other's feelings, needs, and even a few wants. No relationship can thrive without those things intact and every healthy friendship consists of those "ingredients."
And you won't (fully) know if any of this is the case if you're quick to jump into bed or rush into a relationship without seeing how you are as friends…first.
You know, reconcile is a really interesting word. On the one hand, it can mean "to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired." On the other hand, it can mean things like "to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable" and "to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent." And with those definitions in mind, that's what you should focus on most of all.
- Is your ex willing to "win you over" by how they (now) treat you? Are you willing to do the same?
- Would being with them bring more or less harmony into your life?
- How compatible were you before, and how compatible do you seem to be now (sans the nostalgia)?
I will never say that getting back with an ex is a good or bad idea, full stop. I'll just say that if you're going back to your past, make sure it benefits your future. Otherwise, leave it right where it's at: nothing that your present needs beyond a scroll and a click…if that much, sis.
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