Prayer is so simple yet we tend to make hard work of it. We forget that it is a relationship with God, and like all relationships, needs nurturing if it is to grow. One of the first things we have to learn is that if we do all
the talking, we'll end up talking to ourselves. We have to get used to the idea of a conversation with God made up of many elements: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication (easy to remember by the first letters: ACTS).
We can take courage from the fact that the gift of prayer was poured into our hearts at baptism. All we have to do is to allow that gift to grow by providing the right conditions. In practice, that means
- choose a quiet place where you can be reasonably sure of not being interrupted — it doesn't have to be completely soundless, sometimes that is more of a distraction than a help;
- find a comfortable position — sitting is fine, provided you keep your back straight — but not so comfortable you fall asleep;
- perhaps read a few words of scripture at the beginning, or light a candle or focus on a crucifix or icon — just to quieten your mind;
- listen to your breathing and the sounds about you — gradually your breathing will become slower and the noises cease to intrude;
- try to pray at the same time(s) each day; regularity is more important than the length of time we give to prayer, although most people find ten to fifteen minutes morning and evening quite enough to begin with;
- don't try to rush things — it takes time to become comfortable with silence; and don't lose heart if you feel you are not progressing, we often feel we are going backwards in prayer because we don't see what God sees.
Above all, "pray as you can, not as you can't". Don't be afraid to voice your concerns or ask God for help. You are the apple of his eye: is it likely that he would not want to hear about what matters to you? But remember that God tends to speak in whispers rather than loud shouts. We need to tune into his silence and that takes time.
It may be that if you follow this way of praying for a while, you will find spontaneous prayer arising in you, or a peaceful, quiet resting in God. Trust him, and follow where his Spirit leads.