Books, Faith, Prayer

How Learning To Pray Saved My Faith

How Learning To Pray Saved My Faith

I’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by answering this prompt: ‘What saved your faith?’

As a child I learned to pray by way of recitation and counting of beads. With my plastic rosary clutched between my small hands, I’d go through the Hail Mary repeatedly, hoping that by offering the prescribed number of supplications, I could appease God enough to garner his forgiveness or the removal the burden which sent me to the rosary in the first place.

I didn’t understand then what prayer was truly meant to be. These memorized prayers felt more like prescriptions handed out by the clergy, than actual communication with God. Each repetition held me at arms-length from Jesus.

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At meals, we said a specific prayer. Sunday mornings were filled with other scripted recitations of the nicene creed, and other confessions. When I’d wake in the night with various nightmares, as I often did, I was instructed to recite the Our Father, and I did without fail–believing that these memorized petitions held some mystical power to protect me from the things that haunted my sleep.

In my younger years, my communication with God was limited to these traditional prayers.

I didn’t read the bible as a child, so I was unfamiliar with the outpouring of prayers that can be found in the Psalms. At that time, our family’s faith could be better described as performance or task completion. I knew of Jesus then, but I didn’t know Him, and I certainly didn’t know how to talk to Him–or even that I could, apart from my memorized liturgy.

When my family  joined an evangelical, (and somewhat charismatic) Episcopalian church I was introduced to a new kind of prayer. While Sunday morning worship included the various creeds and confessions we recited during the services, Wednesday night’s prayer service offered something entirely different.

Same church, some of the same people, and yet the experiences couldn’t have been more different.

Praise Angels

Wednesday night I witnessed real, honest, unscripted praying. Confessions poured out, but not by way of stoic, stiff-kneed, statuesque figures lined neatly in the pews.

Wednesday night confessions were mumbled through lips pressed into carpet. Wednesday night prayers were bathed in tears or sometimes sung through laughing lips and clapping hands. Wednesday’s prayers were said bent at the rail–for hours. People were not only speaking their prayers, but they were also listening for God to speak. There was no time constraint, no rush to finish before the next service. Wednesday’s prayers came by way of prophesy and tongues. It wasn’t chaos. It was musical, lovely, and sacred.

Learning to pray prayers formed from my own words, out of the contents of my own heart transformed my faith. Listening to the honest prayers of my fellow congregants served as an invitation into something richer than I ever imagined–real conversational prayer with Jesus.

My experiences at Wednesday night’s prayer services taught me that prayer could be both, scripted and unscripted. I learned to embrace the freedom of praying out of the overflow of my own heart–whatever that happened to be at the moment.  As my free-prayer life evolved, I learned to treasure the scripted prayers of my childhood. I discovered the depth and beauty of praying through the ancient creeds and how these words connected me not just to God but to the believers who had gone before me.

Learning that prayer can be fluid, messy, joyful and relaxed–a blending of scripture recitation with my own thoughts, saved my faith.

In learning to pray from my own heart, I finally met Jesus.


What saved your faith? Write a blog post answering that question and then visit to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide, which is discounted on Amazon.

Christian Survival Guide



*please know that I wrote this post reflecting on how I felt about scripted prayers as a child. As my faith has grown, I have come to deeply love the prayers I recited on auto-pilot as a child. It has been fascinating to see how God used those memorized prayers to help lay the foundation for my faith as an adult. I recite the Lord’s prayer and Nicene creed as part of my weekly worship and I love it that way. 😉


  1. I think I reacted really hard against my Catholic upbringing and struggled to see the value in reciting the prayers of others for a long time. Now that has been a lifeline for me when I struggle to find my own words.

    1. Yes, Ed. I totally get this. It has been a long, slow reckoning with my catholic upbringing, and like you, I now treasure the scripted prayers I once forsook. I love the way God brings us around. The prayers of my childhood are a beautiful comfort to me, when I cannot find the words.

  2. I love this. I had the opposite experience, to some degree. In the Baptist church where my relationship with Christ began, there were no recited prayers, not even the Lord’s Prayer, and I only ever prayed from my heart in pleas and praises. But in the last few years, the beauty of the murmured, scripted prayers became a sort of prism for me that breaks the light of the Spirit into all of these amazing colors, and they envelop me profoundly. Wonderful post. <3

  3. janetb1

    I have found beauty in both. I attend an Evangelical Lutheran Church and it does not have the traditional service so there are times when I miss the kyries(not sure of the spelling) and the creeds, etc. There are moments when I want to just sit in a Catholic service and breathe it in. I love the beauty of the written prayers to me there is something beautiful in them 🙂

  4. Kristin_theschellcafe

    Oh Kris, this speaks to my soul. My Catholic school days were a hot mess of spiritual confusion and fear. I was not Catholic and the liturgy, confessions, and prayers I observed and Hail Merry’s I was forced to learn landed me in the nose bleed section, far from Jesus. I bet I still hold the record for the fastest recitation of the rosary in the 7th grade. As God is always good, he took the broken pieces of my faith and reshaped, remolded and redeemed those rote prayers and seemingly empty words and returned them back to me as blessing. I learned the freedom you share today, too. Freedom to have both honest, unscripted, Spirit led conversations with God as well as offer rich, ancient prayers which link my voice with centuries of sinners, saints and petitioners to the throne room. Love you, my kindred friend.

  5. I grew up Catholic, and loathed religion at best. I was detached from it and it from me. But the freedom of worshipping in sprit and in truth that you describe at those Wednesday night services is the same life and love and joy and freedom I experienced when Jesus rescued me as a youth. It has been a long time since I have been in services like those Wednesdays, and my heart aches sometimes for the parts of the Church who do not know God like that, or allow themselves to be so free. In His presence is where real spiritual transformation happens–the kind that is humanly impossible. Beautiful.

  6. Amy

    Although I was raised knowing both the scripted and the unscripted it wasn’t until recently (last 5 years) that my unscripted prayers came deep from my heart. It was when I begin to see myself as having a relationship with Christ rather than following HIm as a religion that I felt I could be honest in my hurt, desperation and love (as if He didn’t alrady know without me telling HIm). Thank you for sharing your sweet journey with us.

  7. I was raised in a time when the priest had his back to us… we said the mass in Latin… I lived in a community where everyone was either Catholic or Jewish… then we moved to a foreign land… to a small town in the south 🙂 Here I was introduce to the “strange” world of Protestantism… After the culture shock… my heart was drawn to something I had never known… and when I came to Jesus… I was kicked out of the house… God in His mercy has healed it all… my relationship with my Dad… with my Catholic roots… I now appreciate what those years did give to me… and I am reading one of the best “devos” I have ever read… It is called Divine Intimacy… a year in the liturgical church… the depth and richness there… I have not found in other more “protestant” devos… I don’t agree with every thing… but I have been challenged and driven deeper into a love relationship with the Lover of my soul… and the sweetest part of this… my dad gave it to me… us standing on common ground… reading and growing together… God is a redeemer indeed!!!!

    1. bluecottonmemory

      I want to read that Ro. I understand about something missing in protestant devotionals, though through them I have moved so much closer to the Father! –

  8. bluecottonmemory

    I grew up like you did, but I learned how to pray when I check out the autobiography of St. Therese of Liseaux. I remember reciting the prayers you did – and trying hard to concentrate on what they meant – to give them their full meaning but, like you, it wasn’t until I started reading my bible, reading psalms – spending time with Him that I learned about praise and prayer. When we’re hungry for Him – He leads us to where we’ll be fed – doesn’t He! My family is now in an evangelical church – and quite a few years ago, He sent me back to pull in what introduced me to Him – and to find the grace, beauty and heroes in its history. He doesn’t waste anything!


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