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:
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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").
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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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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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