Today's New York Times magazine has an interesting article entitled "Is There a Right Way to Pray?" Author Zev Chafets offers up some interesting anecdotes and ideas from a variety of religious and spiritual sources, including his own conversation with a spiritual director.
For some people, prayer is simply breathing in, then breathing out again. For others, prayer is reciting specific words at specific times of day. And still for others, prayer is about song, praise and worship.
People have spontaneously called out to God or Jesus or some other deity during moments of intimacy, or when rolling the dice at a craps table, or when scratching off the lottery ticket. There is contemplative prayer and ecstatic prayer, praying with our hands and praying with our feet. I am often inspired by the many ways people pray, including a quality of prayerfulness that can infuse our daily lives. No doubt there are probably some prayer practices that would make me a little nervous.
Years ago my friend Rachel taught me her parking prayer:
Parking Fairy full of grace, help me find a parking place.
I have absolutely no evidence that the Parking Fairy (or tooth fairy, for that matter) exists, or that this prayer has any scientific effectiveness. Unlike the Sh'ma, or the Lord's Prayer, this prayer has not been recited generation after generation, nor is it said around the globe. But I've taught it to my friends and family, and it makes me feel good to say it.