I have never known a day without God in my life.
It sounds dramatic, but it's true. I spent summers at vacation Bible school in a small town south of Atlanta with my grandmother, at the kind of church with crinkled paper fans and a choir whose voices vibrated through the creaky wooden pews. As a teen, I was an usher and sang in the choir—off-key, but sincere. I always went to church, but I didn't always know how to pray.
Prayer is how we communicate and connect with God but it's how He changes us. Don't let other people's assumptions about prayer complicate that. Their discomfort or ignorance can prompt you to question your own confidence in your spiritual life. Even if you're a baby believer, or haven't prayed much before, you can start. I learned to ignore the people who questioned my spiritual certainty and honored God's voice within me. I have dreamt about things in my life that have come to pass. I have followed small whispers that guided me to opportunities and people who changed my life. I have been shown things I cannot explain. People who I know love me and still think I'm crazy, but I know myself.
I learned to make space in my life for the voice of my spirit. She, through God, tells me which parties to attend, who to love, who to block, which friends are foe, how I spend money, which job offers to accept. But it took time to truly hear her. It took discipline. It took life falling apart.
Here's a secret: you won't always feel like praying.
But do it anyway. Pray – especially when you're angry, when you have questions and when your doubts are turning your life upside down. Seek inner peace. Learning to respect that soft voice deep down is how you learn to trust your God and yourself.
The woman you will become is built through life's joy, pain. and your ability to pray through it.
Here's a few steps to becoming a powerful privately praying woman:
Create Your Own Sanctuary.
I pray throughout the day. In my car, at work, in the shower, on my knees, dancing around, in the gym, in my closet-- you get the point. You don't have to wait until it's dark outside to fall on your knees before bed after a hectic day. Prayer is God's direct extension, it takes time to hear him through the static. Don't rattle off a list of wants without listening back for His voice. It won't be loud and His message at times may be muffled. But keep practicing. There could even be a time where God's silence forces a leap of faith.
I transformed part of my closest into my prayer lounge. On the floor: green decorative pillows. On the walls: letters to God, pink Post-it's with scriptures, and list of times God showed up for me. Some days, I sit in silence. Other days, I'm crying out to God (or just crying) with my journal and a praise-be-to-the-most-high-please-fix-it-Jesus playlist. Take ownership in being a prayer warrior by creating a space where you can listen, cry, plan, profess, and grow. Be intentional with your time.
Your sanctuary isn't limited to prayer. Prayer isn't just about having a conversation with God, it's about connecting with your soul. You can hear God through exercise, yoga, cooking, writing. Allow your interests and talents to reveal your true self.
Seek Wise Counsel.
We all need people in our lives who want us to win. But not all good advice is applicable to your situation. Not all good ideas are good for you. You must be mindful what you allow people to speak over you. Listening to the wrong advice from the right people ties you to their expectations and abilities. Mama knows best, but is it possible for mama to be wrong this time? (Sorry, mama.) If someone shares an opinion that feels wrong, or goes against what you believe to be the destined plan for your life, respectfully decline. Swipe right. Exit. Not everyone's intentions are pure and sometimes they can project their fears onto.
Be Still & Be Quiet.
I struggled with this big time because I LOVE to talk. I ran from being quiet with God for years. Like, “OK, @God you want me to be alone with my anxieties, fears, and truths and work through it all?" Nah. I'm good. But if you treat it as a form of self-care, prayer will change your life.
If you're constantly running from what you don't know about yourself, the finish line of wholeness and peace will always keep moving away from you. You'll never get there. You'll never truly win.
Fall in love with being alone, being still, and being quiet. Yes, socialize, date, network, but find time to be with yourself. Listen for the small voice within. Listen for the ideas that fall into your heart. Search for the spirit that gets drowned out by the distractions of retweets and double-taps.
Reasses Your Resources.
Some Sundays we're in the pews and others, we're streaming saints and bedside Baptists. Either way, connect to ministries that speak to your soul.
Podcasts, sermons, and books aren't one size fits all. We screenshot a meme, read an amazing book, or text sermon notes to Bae and Friends that are meant only for us. Learn which spiritual teachers and materials work for you. You don't have to delete all the inspirational texts from your group chat or rebuke your girls the next time they share a word, but don't feel guilty for guarding your heart and learning what best suits you at the time. For you, silent mediation may work better than TD Jakes speaking in tongues. Don't let anyone force you into their spiritual routine. Invent your own.
Don't Give Up.
Prayer isn't a magic potion that miraculously treats your problems and scatters fairy dust across your dreams. Nope. Nothing in life is that simple. Life will challenge you, especially as you begin new jobs, new relationships, and a new journey of self-discovery. Don't wait until something is wrong to talk to God. He's good in a crisis, but get to know Him (and yourself) before one presents itself.
One thing is certain: prayer is your power tool.
It secures the foundation of what you believe about yourself and your life. It tints the walls of your world with encouragement. It embellishes the rooms of your soul. Use what you believe about God and the Holy Spirit and train yourself to trust that voice, despite your doubts.
Listen to her. Follow her lead. She is intelligent, beautiful, ambitious, and strong despite any circumstances or flaws.
Prayer doesn't guarantee ease, perfection, or control over your life. It dresses you with the confidence you need to conquer it.
Nicole Baker is a weekday morning anchor in Savannah, Georgia.
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