Every Day I Pray

Best-selling author and inspirational speaker shares her prayer journey.

Excerpted from "Every Day I Pray" by Iyanla Vanzant with permission of the publisher, Simon & Schuster.

I grew up in the Holiness Church, where

prayer was an event

. On Sunday mornings, for as far back as I can remember, I watched one minister or another lead prayer. He always started out slowly, standing erect, his eyes closed and head bowed. Gradually the tempo changed. The pastor would take off his glasses and reach for the handkerchief in his pocket. Just about then, the organist would begin to play deep chords to accent certain words. This prompted the human chorus of humming, clapping, stomping, and sometimes moaning.

The pastor would start to sweat as the cadence of his speech changed. He was sort of singing, sort of talking. The organist kept pace with more chords, now accompanied by drums and an occasional tambourine. Soon most of the people in the church were on their feet, talking back to the pastor, helping him out with "Amens" and "Glory Fathers," being driven to a feverish pitch by the "Thank-Yous" and "Hallelujahs" being shouted out from every corner of the sanctuary.

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Prayer in the Holiness Church was an amazing, sometime frightening, event for a child to witness. The energy that was revved up from the sanctuary certainly amazed me and made a lasting impression. Although I could barely understand a world the pastor was saying over the organ and the human orchestra, I knew something powerful was taking place. Sometimes I clapped because everyone else was clapping. Other times I clapped because I was afraid not to. I was afraid that if I did not clap, if I just sat there watching, God would think I didn't love him. God would think I didn't know how to pray to him. The conclusion was still fresh in my mind. Sure, I knew all of the childhood prayers I uttered on my knees at the side of my bed. Many years of Sunday-school attendance had etched certain Psalms and rote prayers into the fibers of my brain. However, somewhere deep inside of me, I had the secret belief that I did not know how to pray, and that frightened me.

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