Prayer is often described simply as talking with God. One says words aloud or with quiet thoughts. The talking can be recitation of a formal prayer, such as The Lord's Prayer, or simple spontaneous thoughts expressed in thanksgiving, frustration, or as an appeal for help. Sometimes we may even think or say thoughts in anger, even at God.

"Why didn't you keep my child from getting hurt on the ball field? Don't you see how this causes me pain?"

Prayer, of course, in order to be a conversation needs to allow time for listening ñ to hear what God might be saying. God needs a chance to answer your questions, to speak to your heart, and to surround you with grace. We often miss what God is saying to us because we don't quiet down enough to listen. This can be risky, however, because God might want to say something to us that we don't want to hear.

Ordinarily we think of prayer requiring words. Music and art can also express what we can't put into words. And fortunately, God understands our thoughts and emotions even when we are unable to express them in any form. God may even prefer for us to simply have the intention to be present for God without words, thoughts, or even emotions.

Words may lock us into our thoughts and leave little room for God to speak to our hearts. Silence, after all, is God's first language.

Gandhi once said, "Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. And so, it is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart."

God wants the deepest treasure of our lives-a loving heart filled with gratitude for the gift of life. And while our longing for God remains, especially in our weakness, God's longing for us is even dearer. Like a loving grandmother, God might wish to sit us on God's lap to fall asleep in a warm embrace.