When I was growing up, saying my daily prayers was just a chore or an obligation that I had to do because my parents told me to. I would recite the words as instructed by them. I probably knew the “Our Father” before I knew my ABCs. My kindergarten teacher called me her “prayer warrior” and said I knew what was important! Now prayer seems to have become impossible to get right for the average person. By the time I entered high school I had mostly given up on the practice of prayer because I assumed I wasn’t doing it correctly.
Reciting prayers didn’t work because I focused on the memorization of the words in each prayer. Once I did memorize one, saying it became more habitual, instead of actually being able to meditate on the words it contained. When I tried simply speaking with God, I fell into the temptation to give Him a long wish list of what I wanted: prayer transformed into the Godly version of a letter to Santa at Christmas. Making the situation more complex, there are countless books about prayer and the “right” way to pray. I have never been a reader, and never did well with being told how to do a task; I usually just gave up.
Taking all these factors into account, I wonder why Jesus Himself says that the right way to pray is through the “Our Father.” For the majority of my life, I thought Jesus meant that the only way to talk to God was by saying those exact words. Jesus was providing a gateway–when I am completely lost and don’t have any words and all my strength is gone, I say the “Our Father.” The true miracle happens next, when the “Our Father” empowers me to keep going deeper into prayer. “Thy will be done” allows my mind to release its own inhibitions and the prayer is no longer my own–it is the Holy Spirit’s. The key to prayer is not to worry about getting it right, but to open your soul and allow the Holy Spirit to take control and guide you to “Our Father.”