Prayer is so personal. It is entirely unique to every individual. When I pray, in my mind or out loud, I always begin my prayer “Dear God,” but I am the only one I know who does prayer in this way. I have heard “Loving God” “Holy Father” “Wonderful Creator,” but never ever “Dear God.” I thought about why I address God as though I’m writing a letter, and I came up with a few ideas. First, maybe when I first started praying before bed and at the dinner table, my mom taught me to pray in this way. Maybe “Dear God” was my introduction to prayer, and so that is how I think of it now. But I think there’s more to it than just a practice I learned as a child. So then I thought about the first time I felt God addressing my prayers. I was in the third grade, a time of structure and unvarying routine at school and at home. At school my teacher wrote our schedule on the blackboard for the week, outlining our regular subjects and any special activities planned by the parents or the school. At home my mom woke us up to breakfast and a morning devotional, morning chores, and Flintstones vitamins, and put us to bed with a book, prayers, and a song. One evening I went through the routine prayer, “Dear God, please bless Grandma and Auntie and Mom and Dad and Scott and Evan and anyone who’s hungry and anyone who’s sleeping outside and anyone who’s flying in an airplane…” and oddly added, “and please let us do something fun in school tomorrow.” I knew there was nothing planned, so this fun thing would have to be a good book at reading time or an especially fun recess. However, upon my arrival to school the next morning the plan had changed, and there was Celia Nissen’s mom with 25 small, flat, wooden crosses and hundreds of seashells to hot-melt glue on them. I distinctly thought, “God answered my prayer!” and I still have that cross toda
Not everyone likes the way I start my prayers, but though I have been criticized for it, I haven’t changed my opening address yet. I think the reason I open my prayers in letter-format is because I want to make sure I have God’s attention before I rattle off my concerns and requests. Its kind of a personified way of catching God up to the beginning of my prayer. I know that’s not how it works, but the distinction between “God the all powerful being” and “Jesus loves me this I know” becomes huge when I start to pray. Why would I pray to an essence? I don’t think God micromanages my life, but I do like to think God throws me a bone once in a while, like my wooden seashell cross.