In 2021, a research poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicated that only 45% of adults in America pray every day — that's despite the fact that 63% of adults identify as Christian. Some common reasons people of faith give for not praying regularly include busy schedules or simply forgetting to spend time with God. But many people find the concept of prayer daunting and don't know how to approach it, which keeps them from forming strong prayer habits.
Older adults who've been actively involved in their faith may be comfortable with prayer and have no issues engaging in it daily. But those who came to faith later in life or never really learned to incorporate strong prayer habits into the day-to-day may still struggle with praying.
No matter where you fall in this range, turning to the teachings of Christ for a refresher on prayer is never a bad idea. Let's take a look at the Lord's Prayer section from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-14) to see what Jesus has to say about praying.
Jesus starts out his teaching on prayer by telling people not to do what the religious elite at the time were doing, which amounted to showing off in their prayers. They wore special items, stood on street corners and prayed loudly to God with lots of phrases and words that Jesus pretty much declared meaningless.
The issue with these types of prayers is that they're about showmanship. Jesus reminds believers to pray to God and for God and never for others. That's not to say you shouldn't pray on behalf of others or even with others. For example, you might say grace over a meal with others in your assisted living community or pray for your children or grandchildren. But it's more about the time you spend with God and what you bring him in prayer than how and where you do it.
If you read over any time Jesus prays to his Father in heaven in the Gospels, you note that he's direct and to the point. He doesn't try to use pretty words or make the prayer sound especially spiritual. Instead, he talks to God in much the same way he talks to his disciples.
If you've seen pastors or other speakers in church settings pray, it can be intimidating. They may quote Scripture or sound especially compelling as they pray out loud before hundreds of people, and even as an older adult, you may worry that your prayers don't sound the same as those. This is a common reason people don't want to pray out loud in front of others.
But remember that a pastor or speaker has experience speaking to an audience. On top of that, they may have that particular gift. You don't have to be a gifted speaker to talk to God in private or before others. Simply use your normal conversational voice.
Jesus reminds his followers that God already knows what they need. Prayers aren't tests. God isn't listening in with a checklist to make sure you cover everything. You could forget everything you needed to say to him and just spend time with him and it would count the same. Prayer is important not because God needs a shopping list of things to do for us but because he wants us to spend time with him.
When you want to develop a habit of prayer but don't know where to start, follow the template Jesus provided in the Lord's Prayer: