Don't take me off the list of idiots when it comes to prayer. I have conjured up some ideas about what prayer is and how it works, but there are tons of mysteries and questions, and a lot of evidence that I am an idiot.
Simply put, I think of prayer as talking to God. Talking with God in dialogue I think of as meditation.
Whenever communicating with anyone it's important to know one's audience; in the case of prayer, God is the audience. What do we know about this audience. Not much and yet conjectures abound everywhere. God is everywhere, knows everything, is capable of everything, is more loving than my mother or father, is gracious beyond understanding, is free of gender, is awesome. And more. Based on all that I wonder what I should say.
Should I ask for help? For better health? For support and presence at our meetings? Really? God is already present. God knows I need help, why should I have to ask for it? Do you really think this would be new information for God? Do you think that God wouldn't know I needed help if I didn't ask for it? Really?
God is love and love is only truly experienced when it is given freely and returned to the giver. So it's appropriate to give love to God, but how do you or I give love to someone who already has everything. That special diamond necklace isn't going to hack it. Neither will dumping a pile of dough on the altar.
We can praise God by calling God names: Lord, Father, Creator, Gracious, Almighty and the list goes on. Really? Is that what God wants? I think God expects us to "Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God." I don't see anything in that list of three suggesting I say "Jesus, I just want to ..." I think this means that I should love God by loving our neighbors, that's everyone.
I think prayer is to communicate how awesome God is, thank God for all we have. For being present at meetings, and actually at all times. Thank God for the food, health, healing, warmth, rain. For neighbors, for friends, for comfort, for peace. For challenges and support.
The "Lord's Prayer" suits these ideas well except for the phrase that says "Give us this day..." Really? We're telling God what to do, to give us food and other daily needs. Really? Spin it whatever way you want, the phrase is asking God, almost demanding that God give us what we want or need.
So here's what I've been up to. As I "lay my head down to sleep" I say, "God, how are you doing? So many things are amok and messy here on earth among your children. I hope you can see some joy among the sadness." And then I continue with all the specific of the day and week, those who are ill, those who are hunger, and all those things, and I thank God for hanging in there with us.
Then I get a bit selfish, I ask for God's support that I may "do justice and love kindness" more sincerely, and that I and God can have a closer relationship. Because I can't do it alone, actually I can't do any of it without God supporting me. I'm rather broken and weak, next to nothing. But that's okay because God loves me as if I were the only thing that God ever made or loved. And I apologize profusely for not doing my best, and for being such a clod and klutz. I know I could do better but somehow I don't seem to do it. Sorry, really sorry.
And in the tradition of the Christian faith: amen.