A word on prayer.
I have been in various different Christian churches in my life. The church in which I grew up (Korean Presbyterian) had a value for vocal simultaneous prayers. Even now, I hear of churches praying “Korean style” in which everyone prays out loud all at once. I have also been in churches that value extemporaneous prayers, words springing forth in the moment. I very much enjoyed the energetic movement of these prayers, gathering with others to ask as one.
In contrast, in my counseling class, we discussed three sentence prayers. The idea was to think through what I was going to pray, choose my words carefully, and believe that a few words are enough. My church here in Chicago operates in a similar fashion: When we pray together on Sunday, we pray in three to four sentences, and all join in “Amen.” I very much enjoy the orderliness and mindfulness of these prayers.
It is beneficial to understand and appreciate how various traditions approach prayer. There is also space for creativity. One of my favorite memories was praying in synchrony with David Chiu. It was just the two of us. I would pray a single sentence (an actual sentence, not a run-on paragraph), and David would respond with a sentence, and back and forth. In this way, we were not just praying together, but responding to one another.
The value of prayer is not just in getting what we want. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he started with “Our Father.” Just as we don’t simply go to our earthly fathers to ask for stuff, so prayer is not just petition, but communication.