No Such Thing As a Bad Prayer: A Q&A With Rick Hamlin

Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
10 Prayers You Can't Live Without
How to Talk to God About Everything
By Rick Hamlin

1. Do you have a favorite place to pray?

My "go-to" spot is the New York subway train. I take it hither and yon every day and am so used to closing my eyes and shutting down that the "white noise" of the engine and rattle of the train on the track is my own call to worship. I believe you can pray anywhere, but it's always good to have one regular place you go to and one regular time of day to check in. Check in and then check out.

2. What time of day do you like to pray?

First thing in the morning is best for me. I'm freshest and also my mind is at its busiest, and by that I mean it's a little over-active. Too many thoughts careening through my head, too much anxiety. I need to let go of that constantly planning head and open myself up to the God-directed possibilities of the day, let go of my ego-centric demands and listen to God's call. First thing in the day is a way to re-prioritize.

3. Have you had any specific prayer mentors?

My dad was certainly a mentor, praying every evening at the dinner table when I was growing up. I learned from him that it's possible – and healthy – to put everything and anything into a prayer. Let it go. And I learned from him how to handle interruptions, which are constant and a blessing in prayer. Put them all back in the prayer. Don't fight them. Listen to them, maybe they are offering a chance for prayer.

4. Are there specific prayers you say?

Sure. The Lord's Prayer is essential. It is a model for all of us. Again and again I'm reminded that it's in the first-person plural, not first-person singular. Our Father, who art in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…lead us not into temptation…That says to me that when we pray, even when we're alone, we're also praying with others and for others. We are in a cosmic community with God. I also like praying the Jesus Prayer: "Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner…" Sometimes I add a passage to that: "Make haste to help me, rescue me and save me, let thy will be done in my life…" The Jesus Prayer is so brief, it's easy to remember and use in the middle of ANYTHING.

5. Is it okay to get angry in prayer?

Well, yes. If you're angry at God, better tell him. Wouldn't you tell a friend if you were angry at him or her? The silent treatment is only going to be painful to you. There have been times when I've told God "No!" And sometimes it's more than "NO!" The "No" usually turns into something else, but if I don't start out with "No" I don't go anywhere.

6. Are you an expert in prayer?

Goodness, no. You are an expert in prayer. Your mom/sister/brother/teacher is an expert in prayer. The person who just waited on you in the grocery store is an expert in prayer. Prayer is for amateurs. Amateurs are those of us who do something for the love of it. I love the word "practice" when used with prayer. We're all practicing. We're all trying, but in prayer, to try is to do. You can't fail at it. I don't really believe there is any bad prayer. God hears everything we say. He knows our deepest thoughts. Why should we think we need to edit them when we speak to God?