My background, before coming to Christ, was in a tradition where prayers are pretty much prescribed. Spontaneous conversations with God did happen, but I’m not sure they were all that encouraged. It was considered more important to say all the right prayers at the right times, and not miss a scheduled conference with God.
So using prayer as a personal communication with God is somewhat new to me.
I’m discovering that there are different kinds of prayer. Some are really deep and require a certain kind of focus and vulnerability. Some are a lot shorter and more superficial (“God, please help me find the right words,” when you unexpectedly find yourself in a difficult conversation with a friend or loved one, for example.”)
I try to have at least one or two real heart-to-heart conversations with God every day. I am learning that it helps to spend some time shifting my focus from worldly distractions to matters of the soul before I start to pray. Sometimes that takes longer than others.
I am totally in awe of the Pastors, worship leaders, group leaders, etc. who seem to be able to make that shift in a heartbeat. I can’t do that (yet). Maybe it just takes practice.
Until I get more practice I get nervous, for example, when only a small number of people show up at my small group or Bible study, because I know that increases the odds that I might be asked to lead the group in prayer at some point, and I know I can’t switch from the superficial to a more prayerful mode right on a dime.
Another thing I’m noticing in my own prayer life though, is that sometimes the best way to prepare to pray is just to start praying. I’ve had that happen sometimes, when I was still distracted by worldly chaos but just started praying anyway, and I could feel myself emerging from the chaos into a deeper level of communication with God as I prayed.
Honestly, on some occasions when I really wanted to spend some time in prayer and couldn’t pull myself away from worldly distractions, I just started out with the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name…” I need to keep remembering that God already knows what’s in my heart, so He knows I’m doing my best.
I think prayer takes practice. I wish somebody had told me that.