Have you ever been asked to pray aloud in a large group? Or do you pray only in private? Prayers can be said anywhere at any time, but orally, in front of others, out loud, petrified me. The first time I was invited to pray in public was intimidating because the prayers familiar to me were eloquent and flowed with soothing words and insight.

In kindergarten, grace was taught. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen. Leave it me; it was initiated and incorporated at once into our meals around the kitchen table.

In the second grade, we learned about Hansel and Gretel. The music teacher taught us the prayer (also known as “The Children’s Prayer”) from the opera. Now, I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. This became my bedtime mantra with lots of “Bless so-and-so’s” added in for good measure.

In the stillness of night, my eyelids closed, the last thoughts in my head before drifting into slumber were the haunting concept that I might never wake up — a sobering and terrifying concept for a 7-year-old. Nonetheless, I remained faithful and fearful until well into adulthood. The seed had been sown as if the customary hellfire and brimstone preaching weren’t enough to keep me trembling with doubt and fear.

As my spirituality grew, so did my prayer time — but never uttered aloud. Attending church and studying the Bible became important to me.

My children learned another way to say grace: Thank you for the food we eat; thank you for the world so sweet; thank you for the birds that sing; thank you, God, for everything.

Then, to my utter horror, I was asked to say a prayer at church one evening. Fear and paralyzing stage fright took over my frame as questions spun in my mind. Isn’t that what we pay the preacher to do, utter all prayers as the rest of us say “amen” in agreement?

Mustering enough courage to try, the words were swift and hushed as the flush of mortification swept over me. Trembling with relief and concerned my prayer had been foolish, I dropped onto the pew without lifting my head the rest of the meeting.

Hearing others pray was something I truly enjoyed, but for me to say one — well, the thought had never really crossed my mind, and now it became an obsessive fear.

Avoiding public prayers became my life’s goal until a young missionary taught me the very simple yet life-changing steps to prayer:

• Address heavenly father;

• Thank him for your blessings;

• Ask him for your needs; and

• Close in the name of Jesus Christ.

How easy is that? It was suggested to simply speak to our heavenly father as we do with our earthly dads. My prayer language changed as I studied the word and became more confident in approaching God.

Whenever feeling sad, lonely, scared or worried, snapping myself out of it comes easily when a full 15 minutes is dedicated to only expressing praise and gratitude without asking for a single thing.

It is a challenge, but it pulls me right out of the pity pit.

Years ago, I worked diligently to learn to pray for his will to be done.

After all, what do I have control over, anyway? Very little other than obvious choices and attitude can be controlled.

Believers know and trust God is in control, yet in our humanity, we struggle to accept we must align our will with his rather than pleading to thwart his plans.

What peace it brings when prepared to accept the outcome of his will. We often have the faith to be healed; but do we possess the faith to not be healed?

Praying for things we don’t need is a waste of time. If we persist, God may grant our plea, which often is to our own detriment as happiness becomes even more elusive.

This septuagenarian still learns things regularly.

Many prayers have been said for the healing of others, but an enlightening thought entered my head about a month ago.

How about praying for my own healing instead of asking for the strength to endure and patience to survive this or that?

When actually implemented, miracles began to happen. So pray, simply and sincerely. Though, sometimes, the answer is No, God hears and answers. How blessed we are. Now, go and give thanks.

— A coal miner’s daughter born in Appalachia and schooled in Michigan, she currently lives in rural Athens. Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She shares her home with her husband, Bob, and their spoiled-beyond-belief dog, Molly.

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