Prayer | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
July 2017


By Jay Campbell

By Jay Cambpell

When I was teenager, I would often go outside at night to pray. I would sit on the ground or the back of my family’s pick-up truck and star into the sky and the stars. God was as big as the sky that I could see. I remember how praying during these times was so freeing for my soul. Time didn’t matter and it felt so natural to empty out my soul to God. There were other times I didn’t have many words, but my soul knew that I was simply resting in the presence of God.

I remember how praying during these times was so freeing for my soul.

The words of Philippians often came to life for me during these times of prayer: “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts in Christ Jesus” (4:5-7). I knew that space was an invitation to pray honestly and openly and that God was there listening and caring, and somehow I could sense this peace overwhelm my whole being.

My faith upbringing instilled in me a reverence and love for prayer. I know my heart longs to connect with the Divine in prayer every day, but as a young adult I have found prayer to be much more of a challenge than it was when I was a teenager. Part of this, I know, is because of how our culture has changed. Our lives are so fast-paced and we are constantly moving from one thing to the next and seldom do we stop to pause and breathe. Often when I take time to pray, it becomes rushed because I keep thinking of the other things I need to get done. In the absence of prayer in my life I sense my faith becoming empty, and I sense my vocation becoming a self-directed effort as opposed to a partnership with the Holy Spirit.

In the absence of prayer in my life I sense my faith becoming empty.

Prayer gives life to our faith. It is an intentional creating space to be with God. While we will always hunger for prayer, the way that we pray may change throughout our lives, which is OK! In my life now prayer happens through a variety of ways: I love reading books that have a collection of written prayers in them. I love going outside at lunch break and listening to instrumental music as a time of simply sitting in the presence of God. Journaling has been a blessing to my prayer life as of late because sometimes writing is easier than speaking for me. I have found great meaning in prayer through printing out a prayer labyrinth template and using different colored markers to journey through the labyrinth writing prayers for people I care about, for events happening in the world and for whatever else comes to mind. The way we pray may change, but may we not neglect to give our souls the nourishment they need.

Discussion Question: What journey has prayer taken in your life and what prayer practices help you connect to God?

Jay Campbell is a provisional elder in the Virginia Conference. He lives with his wife Katie and their dog Rue in Alexandria, VA.