Step One: Getting Started
Close eyes. Think about how long it’s been since you last prayed. Feel guilty. Remind yourself that God just wants to hear from you anyway. Feel a little less guilty.
Step Two: Worry About How to Address God
Begin your prayer by saying “Dear God.” Worry that sounds a bit childish. Say “Father God.” Worry that that sounds a bit formal. Remember “Abba Father”, say “Hey Dad!” Feel awkward when you remember the TV Show. Say “Hey Daddy.” Feel dumb because you don’t even call your own dad “Daddy”. Decide to address Jesus instead.
Step Three: Worry About Which Person in the Trinity to Address
Once you have decided to pray to Jesus remember some conversations in the distant past about who in the trinity you can pray to. Assure yourself that praying to the Father is fine. Jesus is probably fine. The Holy Spirit is a bit iffy because if he points to the Son then won’t he be annoyed that you didn’t go straight to Jesus? Decide that to pray to “God” and then they can sort it out between themselves/himself/Godself.
Step Four: Get Distracted by the Complexity of the Trinity
Resume prayer 10 minutes later.
Step Five: Start Your Prayer
Start by asking God for something, then feel guilty that you didn’t start with a prayer of thanksgiving. Thank God for the day and for Jesus. Ask God for something. Remember that Jesus never says “Thanks” in the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t feel as guilty, but still a little bit guilty.
Step Six: Stress About the Lord’s Will
Ask God for something, then feel concerned that perhaps what you asked for is not in accordance with God’s will. Worry about how you might know God’s will so that God will do what you ask for because God answers prayers that are according to his will. Remember that you haven’t said sorry for anything yet. “Thank you – Sorry – Please.” That’s the correct order according to your year 8 Bible Study leader. Feel guilty you’re letting Alex down. Wonder if Alex ever finished their teaching degree.
Step Seven: Say Sorry
Try and think of things to be sorry for. Try hard not to say sorry for the same things you said sorry for yesterday in case God gets sick of forgiving the same things everyday. Try and remember to bring those things up again next week so you don’t die with unconfessed sin. Remember that dying with unconfessed sin isn’t an issue because you’re a protestant. Remember that it’s 500 years since the start of the Reformation.
Step Eight: Get Distracted by the Reformation
Have vague thoughts about what the Reformation was. Something to do with Martin Luther nailing a letter to a church door. Was it a letter, or was it a pamphlet? Consider the difference between and letter and a pamphlet. Consider the fact that it’s more difficult to nail things to church doors these days because they’re made of glass. Feel guilty you don’t have a better grasp of reformation history.
Step Nine: Forget Where You’re Up To. Feel Hungry. Say “Amen”
After considering the reformation, realise you’re meant to be praying. Forget where you are up to in your prayer. Feel hungry and remember you have new cereal you want to try. Assume that you’ve been praying for long enough. Say “Amen”. Feel guilty you didn’t pray very well. Cover guilt with delicious new cereal. Forget to say grace. Worry about whether you have to say grace at breakfast.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27
If you want a practical book on prayer that doesn’t make you feel guilty for being terrible at it, A Praying Life is pretty great. I’d recommend others but I haven’t read any. I feel a bit guilty about that.