For many people today, prayer is an alien concept, one they are completely unfamiliar with. Even for a lot of Christians, it’s something they’ve never tried. For many, it’s because they were never taught how to pray.
The simple truth is, praying simply involves talking to someone who isn’t in the room with you. Some pray to God, others to the universe at large. Some pray for happiness for themselves, others for the safety of natural disaster victims, others still for an answer.
While it might seem odd to suggest prayer can help you past Writer’s Block – particularly if you don’t believe in a higher power, something you might consider completely supernatural – the reality is that even if you don’t believe anyone is listening, you can still put words to your feelings, to your thoughts, to express things you’ve been afraid to, and you can reflect on lift as you currently know it.
Prayer and religion are, and have been for a long time, fundamental aspects of human nature. As writers, whether we personally believe in the God of Abraham or the avatars of God in Hinduism (or, depending on your point of view, gods of Hinduism), we can’t ignore that religion and spirituality can play some significance on the characters in our stories.
If you don’t feel like speaking your prayer aloud, or even saying it in your head, try to write it down. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. If you’re really struggling, or if you’re unsure what you would pray about, consider writing the prayer from your protagonist’s point of view. Every story has some form of conflict or trouble within it, and the odds are that the hero of your story will find himself or herself overwhelmed with some aspect of life.
While considering this idea of religion, think about whether or not your protagonist is religious at all. Would he/she pray? What would he/she pray for? Does he/she believe in a higher power? If so, who or what encouraged that faith? If not, did your character lose his/her faith, or was it something that never played a role in his/her life?
These are important questions to consider, and how you answer them will reveal a lot about who your character is, where they come from, what their particular background is, and how they will react to various scenarios they encounter throughout the course of your book.
If you find that your own faith does not line up with that of your protagonist, why not interview someone whose faith is similar? This might mean contacting your local priest, rabbi or imam, or asking an atheist you know if they would answer questions for you regarding their position on religion and faith. I would advise addressing everyone you interview for this topic with respect and politeness, even if what they say is completely contradictory to how you feel. Remember that your interview isn’t a means for you to argue over religion with someone, but to get to know your character better.
Of course, if your character is religious, it might help to ask more than one person how they feel about religion, and how they pray. In the end, you should at least begin considering the place of religion in your story, and use the exercise of prayer to address something from your life or your story to help you calm down, and put to words some of your reflections.