7 Steps to Growing a Garden of Prayer
By Maureen Pratt
When we pray, much like when we garden, we cultivate a relationship with God that thrives with our love, attention, and prudent pruning. As we strengthen our prayer lives, our words and thoughts rise from the fertile soil of our souls to the heavens, becoming fruitful and faith-full extensions of ourselves. And, just as rain and sun are essential elements to successful gardening, the challenges and gifts in our lives also nurture us and result in even more bountiful blessings.
Here, then, are seven steps to growing your garden of prayer.
Design Your Garden
What do you hope to achieve from prayer? Comfort? Wisdom? Energy? Healing? Peace? Each of these, and other benefits, are possible through the quiet and focused attention you give to your prayer time. Before you begin, take a moment to collect your thoughts and design your garden of prayer around your deeply held hopes, dreams, and desires.
Prepare the Soil
The more willing you are to sit in quiet contemplation, the more prepared you will be to raise focused prayer and be able to listen to the still, soft voice within. Prayer time is best enjoyed when it’s not in competition with other interests or distractions. Try to find time that can be devoted to prayer, entirely and whole-heartedly. Approach as you would having a conversation with a cherished friend.
Plant the Seeds
The deepest of prayers begins with one word, one position of supplication. Although it might seem almost impossible to find the time, focus, and quiet to spend a long time in prayer, in reality, all it takes is to start. Like planting seeds in the soil you have prepared, beginning to pray, however briefly, will enable you to establish a habit of prayer that will lead deeper and deeper the more time you give it.
Watch and Listen
Sometimes, farmers speak of the joy of “sitting back and hearing the crops grow.” Often when we pray, we don’t think anything is happening or that anyone else is listening. But, in reality, much is going on below the soil, nestled in our souls. Practicing prayer is partly about our words, but it is also about watching and listening for the responses that come to us, sometimes so subtly that we would miss them…if we weren’t paying attention.
Protect from Harm
Weeds. Hungry animals. Floods. These things and others can damage and sometimes destroy the most cherished of gardens. In prayer, we need to be vigilant about things that can tear us away from our inner lives and the value we place on prayer, quiet, and the desire to obtain wisdom from something other than the world outside the soul. Prayer is strongest when it is protected through faith, determination, and consistency.
Prune and Pamper
It is natural to lift up prayers for things we want. But what if the answer is, “No,” or, “Not yet?” Honesty in prayer, just as in any relationship, is a necessary virtue. In order to be able to hear clearly as we pray, we need to be ready to put aside our own desires for what is, truly, the answer to our prayers. This way, we will be ready to embrace new blessings, new challenges, and a new depth of soul that we, in our humanness, would never have imagined.
Reap the Benefits
Always be ready to lift up praiseful prayers! The seeds of peace, wisdom, healing, comfort, energy, and other blessings become, over time, beautiful qualities that sustain us and encourage us throughout life. These benefits of prayer, like the food and flowers grown at our hands in the garden, are reminders that our souls play a vital role in everything we do, say, believe and are. How wonderful are the fruits of prayer! How blessed are we who work in our gardens of prayer!