Many people have been hurt by religion—people who have been pushed away from church by the ones who should have been embracing them; people who were told by others that they weren’t Christians or couldn’t pray the way they did; people who don’t know if they’re qualified to pray, if they’re doing it right, if God will hear them if they’re not already living 100 percent for Him.

When your experiences color your perceptions of God, you may have trouble fully embracing prayer. You might have put up walls to keep from feeling inadequate or unqualified or uncomfortable.

Can I let you in on a little secret? I feel inadequate, too.

Whenever someone refers to me as an expert on prayer, I want to laugh out loud. I did write a book about prayer. It’s not an illogical conclusion. But if you could see inside my mind, the speed at which my thoughts spin from one topic to the next might make you dizzy.

But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps that’s exactly why I’m the one who wrote this. To tell you that it’s okay not to be perfect. God doesn’t expect perfection, and when we do, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

It’s okay to forget to pray or to be distracted and interrupted. We can rely on the truth that God’s mercies are renewed daily. To start over again tomorrow. It’s all right to let God’s grace carry you. It’s normal to feel like you’re out of your element or in over your head. It’s not unusual to hold concurrent but conflicting feelings—you’ve been hurt by some of God’s people, or seemingly by God Himself, and you’re afraid. Yet you sense, somewhere in that indefinable part of you, that if you can just reach Him, it will be worth it. You are not sure, but you hope. You wonder. Whatever it is, it’s enough.

Because there is one fact I know: Prayer does not get its power from me. It comes from God. From the One who hears us. Who welcomes us. Who beckons us daily, moment by moment, to turn back. To remember. To lose ourselves in Him instead of in the momentum of our overscheduled, too-full days. . . .

Simply by praying, simply by trying, you will meet God. You will be changed. And if you keep your eyes open in the process, you will see Him. If you listen, you will hear. You will learn to believe that He can do all the things you long for Him to do.

And you’ll discover that, unlike us, God never fails. He never has doubts, and He never forgets. He is the expert, the author, the authority. Our prayer is made perfect because the Perfect One receives it.

All you have to do is offer it to Him.

Won’t you?

Doodling Around

May I suggest that prayer has an image problem? People think it is an exclusive language reserved for holy men and women clothed in velvet robes and large hats, intoning grand words in powerful voices. Or we imagine black-clad nuns taking vows of poverty and celibacy, kneeling by candlelight in austere surroundings.

We think of prayer as serious and solemn. Formal. Many pray in King James English rather than the English we use every day.

Lord, God, Thou art holy. I beseech Thee. . . .

If that’s the way you speak, more power to you. But I’m more of a slang kind of girl. I’ve been known to laugh while I pray. I make fun of myself. And, occasionally, I say things people think might not belong in prayer.

If I could rebrand prayer, I’d position it as approachable and rejuvenating. Informal. And yes, even fun.

Approaching God with a light heart isn’t irreverent. It’s just being real.

So today, I want you to doodle your prayers.

DIRECTIONS: Write names or situations on a piece of paper, and then fill in the rest of the space with curlicues and spirals, hearts and flowers, zigzags and stripes. Add more prayers. Write your name. Get out your markers and color. All you have to do to turn your doodles into prayer is to mentally offer them up to God. “As I write and draw, hear the desires of my heart and accept this as my prayer. Amen.”

From Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage With God. Copyright © 2016 by Kelly O’Dell Stanley. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.