There’s a saying: Writing is simple. You just sit down at the keyboard and open a vein. So it is for prayer. It ought to be the easiest of prospects: Unload your heart. But what do you do when your heart is so burdened, your mind so ill at ease, your whole being wrapped up in a tornado of anxiety or sadness or anger or fear that you can’t find your heart, let alone a key to unlock it?

I think that’s why there are standard prayers like the “Our Father.” Jesus gave us this prayer for a reason — it says everything most of us need and want to say on a daily basis: God, you are great. I want you in my life; I want your will for me. Please give us the things we need and forgive us when we fail. Help us to forgive others when they fail. Keep us from things that are harmful to us. Thank you.

The Our Father, Hail Mary and other formal prayers are easy to memorize and pure comfort food to the soul. They are there when you can’t find the words on your own. But I also believe that any words you use will do, as long as you mean them. A heartfelt jumble is more prayerful than any standard prayer said only by rote, with no meaning or intention behind it. Or do we even need words to pray? I think some of my most profound prayers have consisted merely of deep emotion and a single syllable: Please. It needn’t even be said aloud.

God doesn’t need a dictionary to read our hearts. He hears all voices, all languages, all dialects. Every moment that our souls are pure in their need, feeling, or expression, we pray. Thank goodness it’s so easy.

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