I find it interesting that very often we Episcopalians have trouble when we're asked to pray off the top of our heads. I've heard lots of reasons but I think there are two that cover most of the problem.
First, we are children of the BOOK (the Book of Common Prayer that is). While the BCP is one of our greatest resources and additions to the larger church I think it's made us think that prayer is always a formal, planned activity that only uses a certain kind of language. This is quite simply wrong. Yes the BCP gives us a wonderful collection of beautifully written prayers for virtually any situation. (As examples, just skimming quickly I found prayers for your school, rain, young people, our enemies, for VACATION!!!,two for birthdays and no less than five graces for meal time) The problem is that with such a great wealth of ready to use prayers we don't get much practice just making them up as we go.
Which brings me to the second point. I'm not sure we get enough practice away from church time and the BCP. Because of this mindset that prayer needs to be formal and in the "right" form we haven't ever explored anything else. You just need more practice.
So don't worry about the words. They aren't important. In fact we recognize at least one form of prayer that doesn't require words at all. (Did you know that the catechism in the BCP lists 7 principal kinds of prayer?)
An exercise I use to help "loosen" people up about prayer is called the "Hey God". A lot of young folks will greet one another with the word "Hey". So start your prayers the same way you'd start a conversation with a friend. Then just keep on rolling. Yeah, prayer is a form of just talking with God. As time goes on you may find you'd like to use some of the more formal versions too. Great.
So just relax and find your own way to talk with God. He'll be good with it, no matter what. You should see how some people have spoken to him in the Bible!
So let us pray.
Hey, God. There's a lotta folks down here who feel kind of uneasy about starting the conversation with you. Please help ease their way into those first couple with you. Bring them the peace and joy that our conversations bring to me. And later on, I've got a couple other things I need to talk with you about. Ok? Cool. Amen.
Till the next time,
Peace (and keep prayin')