An angel attempting to earn his permanent wings was given the mission of finding the person on earth whose prayers had the most power to reach the heaven. He journeyed for a long time and returned with this report: "I circled the entire world and found many people reciting rote prayers without feeling or conviction. Many prayed so that others would see them, others prayed for things to fulfill their worldly addictions, and some prayed to be victorious over others. Just as I was about to give up I heard the sobbing of a little boy in a poor section of a big city. Through his tears he was reciting, "A..B..C.." and on through the alphabet. When I listened closer I heard him pray, "Dear God, I do not know how to read and I cannot recite from the prayer book, but I love you with all my heart. You take these letters and form them into words that are pleasing to you." The angel was given his wings.
It is not the form of our words or acts that brings us closer to heaven, but the sincerity of our intentions. In the film How Green Was My Valley, Walter Pidgeon advises, "When you pray, think. Think well what you're saying, and make your thoughts into things that are solid. In that way, your prayers will have strength, and that strength will become a part of you in body, mind, and spirit."
In another Jewish legend, a cobbler told his rabbi, "Most of my customers are men who work every day and drop their boots off to me at for repair overnight. I often stay up all night to get their boots ready for them in the morning. Sometimes I am so tired that I do not say the Morning Prayer. Other times I just say it quickly so I will have time to work. Other times my heart just sighs, "How I wish I had the time and energy to say my prayer." The rabbi answered, "If I were God I would value that sigh more than the prayer."
Our love of God is not measured by the rituals we do or the forms we create, but by the intentions of our heart. We may lead a busy lifestyle, but if our soul is connected with Spirit our daily activities become communion. By contrast, there are people who go through rote prayers and rituals, but their minds and hearts are elsewhere. We live from our heart or we do not live at all. Here is a benchmark by which you can assess the quality of your actions and make important decisions: What is your intention? If you truly seek to serve and give love, you cannot fail.
Throughout your day, say hello to God occasionally. Lovers call each other several times a day just to say hello. I used to call a girlfriend who had a pager. I would punch in the numbers equivalent to the letters, "I love you," or other romantic phrases she would decipher. Those brief messages were the highlights of our days when we were apart. Give God a heartfelt call every now and then, and your love affair with spirit will bloom in the most wonderful ways.
The best way to connect with God is the way that works for you. You may talk to God as your father, mother, lover, friend, or agent. You may thank God, ask God for help, just think aloud, kick ideas around, or even yell at God. Once I was so frustrated that I wrote God an angry letter, telling Him all the things I was mad about. The letter got results; the next day everything changed. I don't believe for a moment that God was intimidated by my wrath, nor do I believe He would punish me; those are human responses. I believe that God heard my sincerity; I heard my sincerity. I needed to get clear that I deserved better, and the moment I did, the universe mirrored my deepened intention. God translates all communications into calls for love. Do not be afraid to speak to God in your own terms; how else could you do it?
God doesn't care what name you call Her. God is neither man nor woman, yet can be approached as the Absolute Father, Divine Mother, or Innocent Child. Every religion has a different name for God, and they all get results. God can be known personally through form, and God is beyond all form. God is the ultimate shape-shifter.
The most important element of prayer is that it is real for you; the most important element of anything is that it is real for you. Our life has meaning not by the forms we create, but by the intentions of our heart. The Bible tells us, "Pray without ceasing." That means we must make not just our words into prayers, but our thoughts and acts as well. I know people who approach taking out the garbage with the gentleness of communion. When we remember that God is where we are and who we are, we enter into a love affair that will keep the flame in our heart burning forever.