It's not that I don't try to pray, or work at it, or do it a lot. Also, like CS Lewis, I don't pray to change God, but because I need to be changed. I need prayer, God doesn't. I pray for myself mostly. I'm pretty selfish in my prayers. I need to grow in the area of praying for others. So, these are my basic forms of prayer:
I pray "micro prayers" on the way to work, or while driving Haley to school. "Lord, be with this day." "Help Haley to have a good day."
I pray "nervous prayers" on Sunday morning when I first wake up before I preach, "God, help me in my message." "Help me to help people today."
I pray "confessional prayers" almost every day. These are almost always the same, "God, forgive me for all the ways I have fallen short. Be with me. Help me. In Christ's name, Amen". I don't bother listing out sins that I have committed (unless they are really big ones). I know God already knows my sins, and repeating them again and again to myself can have the effect of making me feel bad. Also, the list would go on forever, and who has the time (Luther figured this out, and it is what led him to the Reformation).
I pray "angry prayers". Sometimes I even cuss in angry prayers. "Lord, I'm really ?!?!?!?! !?!? off right now. !?!?!." I know that God has already heard such language before by far more spiritual people than me (AKA: Jeremiah - "Dear God, The nation of Israel is a whore" Jer. 5:7). I have never actually cussed at God, or to God in my life, except once. I still feel bad about it. We were trying to do a big kick-off worship service in San Antonio, Texas, and on Sept. 26, it began to snow. Snow in Southern Texas in September! I was really, really angry. But I shouldn't have said that to God.
"I'm sorry God, for that, forgive me!"
I pray "agenda prayers" before every meeting at church, "Lord be with this meeting, as we talk together about the need to really work hard together as a team, especially as it relates to our first song set of our worship service this coming weekend…"
I pray "couple prayers" every evening after our two girls go to bed. Several years ago, Star and I decided to begin praying every single evening as a couple. At first, it seemed a little strange (to be honest), praying out loud with my wife. Prayer feels like such a personal thing, and to do it out loud feels a bit like practicing the lines of a play while waiting in line at a supermarket. After about 7 years now of praying every night together, we wouldn't let an evening go without it.
My most favorite prayer time is what I call, "presence prayer". These are prayers that are more extended, at night, when everyone else goes to bed. These I usually do on my knees, kneeling before the couch. I will sometimes also have had a glass of wine. Sometimes I will put on some music with my headphones. My favorite recent selection is Lisa Gerrard singing, "Now We Are Free" (Gladiator theme music). In my presence prayers I try to just "Be With" God. I don't try and listen for any choirs of angels, or profound voices that ring out in a stentorian roar, (for example: "Graham, turn back!") I don't bring a laundry list of problems to God. I just try to be with God. If God were in the room with me, I would pour Him a glass of wine and just sit.
My prayers are not eloquent. They are actually really bad prose. The most eloquent prayer I know is Mark Labberton, President of Fuller. Labberton's prayers are like the poems of William Butler Yeats. My prayers are like a bad rap song.
My recent big idea about prayer is that when Jesus gave us the model prayer (the Lord's Prayer), he meant us to say it - a lot. When I pray the Lord's Prayer, I say it in my own words:
Holy is Your Name
Your Kingdom is Coming
Your Will is Being Done
Here on Earth As in Heaven
Give Us Today Our Daily Bread
And Forgive Us our Debts
As We Forgive our Debtors
You Lead Us Not into Temptation
But You Deliver Us From Evil One
For Yours is the Kingdom
And the Power
And the Glory Forever
How do you pray?
All For Now,