Talking to God. Respectfully. Yet honestly. And listening. Obediently.
There is something that bothers me about church. (And,yes, I love going to church, but still...) It is when people wear their church faces - you know, all squeaky clean spiritually speaking - when they wear that sanctified look Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday... If Nehemiah could look sad in the presence of the king, I think we can too. I mean, joyful is good! But not when it's a facade, a lie, a cover-up.
God is light and in Him is no darkness. Deceit of any kind is darkness.
But even more than that, the King of all Kings invites us to come to Him, not when we have it altogether, but when we are heavy burdened, worn out, perplexed (but not despairing...struck down but not destroyed ala II Cor. 4:7-8. Sorry.. I couldn't help but burst into a little Scripture there...).
This same (and only) God listened to Elijah who, worn out from great spiritual victory, collapsed emotionally and spiritually and wailed (sort of), "This is it! I am done for! And I'm the only one left!! And that Wicked Queen is going to killlll meeeeee!!!!!!" (My paraphrase.. ha!)
According to my Bible, God didn't turn a deaf ear or say, "Elijah!! Get up off your duff!!! Repent!!! And sing, "I love the wonderful feeling that I feel when I get together with God's wonderful people..." ten times!!!! Boy! PUT that sanctified smile back on yore face!!!" Instead He told Elijah to rest beside a brook and He sent ravens to feed this worn-out, gut-honest man of God.
So prayer begins with reverence - remembering who God is and giving Him the praise He deserves. But it goes on to what is in the heart - your heart. And ends with what (and whom) is in/on His heart.
And Scripture is key to all of that.
The Word of God is powerful, able to divide soul and spirit and also able to reveal the thoughts and attitudes of our heart. Hebrews 4:12.
How many times have I started to pray what I ought to be praying ( a nice prayer) when suddenly the Spirit would arrest my words in mid sentence and gently say, "Cathy, here is the real issue, the real need, etc." And then, lo and behold, there would be my heart - laid open for me to see - and there would be the issue I had been studiously avoiding, the real source of my anxiety, my tears, my fears, etc.
For me, prayers of healing begin with God's word flowing through my heart and mind.
Also, we have this promise in I John 5:14 - 15, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us and if He hears us, then we can know that our request will be answered.
But how can we know His will if we don't know His word? If it isn't flowing through us?
I thought of this scenario: what if your child came to you and said, "I really want a pet rat. J.B. has one and it's so cute! And smart too! And you can train it and feed it and I would take good care of it!"
Some parents would be okay with that. As it happens, this parent wouldn't be because rats aren't high on my list of things to train, nourish, and love. I know other things about rats that would trump any argument any child of mine could dredge up...
My point is that if this hypothetical child knew the parent's will in this situation, they could marshal their arguments to better purpose, asking for a pet that coincides with the parent's list of pets-that-are-okay-to-keep.
Okay. Sometimes we come to God asking for things that are covered in glitz, like Cinderella's Coachman, who was really a glorified rat.... This is the deal: God knows if the thing (or person) we want is really a rat in disguise. He sees the things we cannot.
If you can delight yourself in the Lord and soak in His word, then I doubt you'll be insisting on getting the livery-coated rat of your temporary heart's desire. (Psalms 34:7) If that makes sense.
And then there is this: ultimately prayer is not about what is on your heart but it's about what is on His heart. And what is on His heart is revealed in His word. And when we get that, the ultimate prayer - "Lord, please put on my heart what is on your heart; cause what brings joy to Your heart to bring joy to my heart and let what breaks Your heart break mine too!" - the ultimate prayer is inextricably tied to... yes... to His Word.