As a subject for discussion, prayer is difficult; but as a habit to be practiced, it is the simplest of things. In truth, you don't have to know much in order to pray. You have to believe some things, of course, but believing isn't the same as knowing.
- You have to believe that there is Someone to talk to.
- You also have to believe that this Someone hears you.
- If there is no one to talk to who can listen, you may be meditating but you are not praying.
- There is no common agreement as to the nature of the Someone. As a Christian, I believe in, and pray to, a God of infinite power, wisdom, and love. Others in their praying do not ask God to do anything or expect him to do anything. They just want to talk to him.
- You have to believe in truth and speak truth. Otherwise your prayer session is just another meeting of the Liars' Club.
So at its simplest, prayer means talking to God. The language may be sung, whispered, shouted, or merely thought in silence; however, it is uttered, its purpose is communication with Someone beyond the earth.
This is communication with God, not conversation about prayer.
One of the best-known words about prayer is not from holy writings, but from a stage play written and produced for profit. The lines are spoken by the murderer of Hamlet's father, whose name is Claudius. By Act 3 his guilt is heavy. He wants to be rid of it but finds himself unable to pray. He also knows why he cannot pray.
But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murder'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?
He has profited greatly by murdering his brother. He cannot ask forgiveness while clinging to the reward of his crime: his brother's crown, his brother's wife, and his own ambition.
Claudius talks a lot about it but he doesn't pray much. Finally, he gives up with the famous line, "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go." (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3). We don't know what he tried to say to God; while he is on his knees, his nephew Hamlet is wondering aloud whether this is the time to kill him. But what we do hear from Claudius is a lot of thinking but not much praying.
People who pray know its simplicity. They are simply submitting themselves, and all that they pray for, into the hands of God.