Here are the two best prayers I know: "Help me, help me, help me," and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
- Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies
To the above, I would add "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" I pray that prayer a lot, usually right after "Thank you, thank you, thank you" and before "Help me, help me, help me" (I reverse those two from how most people would pray them, I think - I like to start out in thanks). But there seems to be a lot of time I spend praying in repentance, praying for forgiveness.
I know that each time we go before our Lord and pray for forgiveness with true repentance He does forgive us, separating us from our sins "as far as east is from west." I know that I am supposed to "sin boldly", because my belief is supposed to be bolder still, and my faith should lead me away from that sin, even while being secure that since we all sin and fall short that God's forgiveness through the mercy of His son Jesus Christ will be there to catch me yet again when I fall. And fall I do. Over and over and over. It isn't just "Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up!", but more like "Help me, I keep falling and I don't want to keep getting up!"
Coupled with that is the problem that I have been having a really hard time connecting with God in prayer lately. I try and pray every day, and generally succeed (multiple times, if you count grace at meals), but I am a long way from St. Paul's injunction to "pray without ceasing". At one time I did better, using the "Jesus prayer" as a sort of walking and sitting meditation mantra, simply getting it going and then keeping it up over and over, thinking of each word in the prayer and what it means. It has been said, I believe in The Way of the Pilgrim, that the Jesus prayer is a condensed version of the whole Bible. I think that's true:
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
The only two shorter one sentence summaries of the Bible I can think of are:
"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
But even my recent attempts at the Jesus prayer have seemed formulaic and distracted. I have recently read Philip Yancey's excellent book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, and need to re-read it, because it covers many of the problems I am having with prayer right now. For one thing, I have always had a problem with petitionary prayer. We are enjoined to ask our Father for everything, and I understand that. But it seems like many people, myself included, really only turn to God when things are wrong, when we want His help.
More than half the spontaneous prayers I hear in church pertain to the sick. In the broader picture of prayer, that gives the same imbalance as a pastor preaching from the book of Job every Sunday.
- Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?
I would say that ratio is more like 90% or more. I naturally feel more inclined to thanking than asking. Perhaps I am lucky, and haven't had to ask for much yet from God in terms of physical health, for example. Perhaps I am just egotistical and still committed to doing it on my own, and not relying on my Father to provide. Either way, I need to be asking more from God in terms of sending His Spirit to help me with prayer, and to quit the behaviors that distract me and lead me away from it. And to anyone reading this, you can help, too.
Please pray for me.