If I were to write a letter to the president there is a certain amount of pomp and elegance I would provide to the letter out of respect for the office and the intelligence that is supposed to be represented there. I would also speak to someone like the president or the governor with a certain elegance and dignity. I don’t want them thinking I’m some ignorant fool, nor do I want to offend them with my relaxed style of speaking.
When we write for school there is a certain amount of style that we are required to include in our poetry and prose so that people can follow along with what we’ve written. Even now, as I write this, there are rules I follow in order to make my writing readable.
However, I don’t expect my children to talk to me like that. I want respect from them. I like them to use the “magic words” of “please” and “thank you”. I want them to acknowledge my questions or directions with “yes sir” or “no sir”. But when they want to talk to me – just talk – I want to hear their heart. I don’t care if they speak with eloquence. I don’t want formalities. I just want to know what is on their mind. I want to hear them with love accepting them no matter how they speak about what is on their heart. I even want to hear when they are angry with me. I want to know why. And I love when they call me “daddy”.
Often I hear people talk about prayer and they say “I just don’t know how to pray. What if I don’t use the right words?”
There are no right words.
You don’t have to start with “Dear God” as if you were writing a letter to Him. He has never left you, and He knows when you are speaking to Him. You don’t have to close it out with “in Jesus name I pray, amen”. Praying “in Jesus name” is an attitude of the heart and not a colloquial phrase required for proper prayer.
You don’t have to use formal addresses like “Thee” and “Thou”. You don’t have to pray all the Christian catch-phrases you hear each Sunday. The only right words are the ones that come from your heart.
There is no required posture.
Often when we pray someone will invite people to bow their heads. This is done in reverence to the Almighty, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not the only posture of prayer. Sometimes I pray while looking around at the creation I’m standing in. I feel connected to God when I’m in awe of his mountains and trees and streams and wildlife. Sometimes I kneel when I pray. I’ve even prayed laying face down on the floor in desperation. Sometimes I look around the room and pray for those I see around me.
The only requirement is your heart.
There is a story in the bible that Jesus tells of a Pharisee (read: super religious guy) and a tax collector (read: scum of the earth – seriously, they thought of them like that back in Jesus’ day too). The Pharisee stood in the synagogue and prayed loudly thanking God for his self-perceived righteousness. He boasted in prayer as he used the fitting words to do his duty of prayer. Then the tax collector began to speak and didn’t look up to heaven or speak loudly. He beat his breast and simply said “have mercy on me, a sinner”. Jesus said that the tax collector went away justified that day for he poured out his heart to the Almighty, and the Almighty heard.
That’s what God wants from you. He wants to hear what’s on your heart. There are no right or wrong words. Just talk to Him. It might feel awkward at first, but keep at it. When you realize that God’s presence is always with you, then you will find prayer to be a refreshing connection with your Creator who loves you more than all of creation. You are his child. Talk to him like he is your daddy.